Hinatuan Mining Corp. (HMC), a subsidiary of Nickel Asia Corp. (NAC), has announced the success of its coral nursery project on the island of Hinatuan in Tagana-an, Surigao del Norte.
The coral nursery initiative, designed and implemented by HMC’s Mine Environmental Protection and Enhancement Department (MEPEO), aims to further enhance the growth of the natural coral reef systems around the marine waters of the island, said Forester Manuel A. Torres, Jr., HMC’s MEPEO lead and Envi-Manager.
For Jusua dela Peña, HMC’s dedicated marine biologist, success means that in less than a year of establishing the nursery, initially with 343 coral fragments in four nursery beds, the coral fragments have fully recovered with an excellent growth rate and a yield of 90% survival against a mortality rate of 10%.
The nursery begins the successful coral gardening in Hinatuan Island as healthy coral “outgrowths” are transplanted to propagate the coral garden.
The United Nations (UN) connects coral gardening to the current narratives about the coronavirus pandemic, detailing how humans and our livelihood are connected to corals in so many ways: the fish that live on coral reefs provide food; coral reefs are draws for tourists who bring in the cash that provide livelihood; that there are new medicines being developed from species found in coral reefs; and, that coral reefs help in the protection of our shores from erosion and pollution.
“We know that the priority right now is to keep the communities and our workforce healthy and safe from the virus, but we at HMC will never stop finding ways to also protect the environment and enhance the island’s marine resources,” said dela Peña.
Engr. Francis J. Arañes, Jr., HMC’s Resident Mine Manager, is most happy about the success of the company’s coral gardening because it showcases the healthy waters surrounding the mine site, which is something to be greatly proud of as a miner.
“The coral nursery is located 200 meters from the mine site’s pier and six meters in depth from the water line. The excellent growth of the corals signifies that the water quality around the mine and HMC’s marine resources are a healthy support to the overall water ecosystem,” Arañes said.
“The objective of this program is to highlight NAC-HMC’s sustainable best practices in marine protection, emphasizing our initiatives, as a responsible mining company, in resources protection and tourism development,” he added.
As a marine biologist, dela Peña attested to growing corals as being labor-intensive, requiring dedication and focus. The nursery is monitored twice weekly with the help of experts and licensed divers. Every inch of growth is recorded, ever recovery rate or otherwise, graphed.
“We cannot emphasize enough the importance of coral gardening and we at HMC, as responsible miners, are obviously deeply passionate about this. Coral gardening plays a significant part in the sustainable development of our environment and in maintaining the integrity of our ecosystem,” dela Peña said.
Most importantly, the involvement of the community is a vital component to the success of the coral garden, he added.
Everyone in the mining communities must be taken in as part of the drive to reach the full potential of the project, HMC said. This means intensive information, education and communication (IEC) campaigns about corals and to declare the site of the nursery as marine protected area, to minimize disturbance and allow the corals to reach their full growth and be healthy enough for massive propagations.
The Hinatuan mine site, also known as the Tagana-an nickel project, is located in Barangay Talavera on
Hinatuan Island. Its area of operations is within the Surigao mineral reservation.
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