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Rio Tuba mining firm turns waste into fertilizer

Rio Tuba Nickel Mining (RTN) is the first in the Philippine mining industry to use the bioreactor technology of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) that converts biodegradable wastes into organic fertilizers and soil conditioners.

FERTILIZER CHALLENGE. The bigger challenge, and probably the most important component, is to get the residents of the mining community of Rio Tuba in Palawan to participate in this upcycling program. Inset photo shows the right mix of household wastes to increase the nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and carbon content necessary to reach the “soil fertilizer” status of the compost.
RTN, a subsidiary of Nickel Asia Corp. (NAC), adopted this innovative soil conditioning technology through DOST’s technology transfer program, which was developed to promote efficient solid waste management practices in the communities.

According to Wilbern Blitz Paeste, Mining Technology and Geosciences Specialist at RTN, the key in using the bioreactor is to arrive at the right mix of household wastes to increase the nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and carbon content necessary to reach the “soil fertilizer” status of the compost.  Paeste says that materials fed in the bioreactor are biodegradable wastes from the communities, classified as – dry waste, wet waste, and animal manure.

The bigger challenge however, and probably the most important component, is to get the residents of the mining communities to participate in the upcycling program so enough household wastes are collected to be turned into fertilizers or soil conditioners.

“Segregation is a challenge. We need to educate the people on how critical segregation is to the success of this program” says Bong dela Rosa, RTN Community Relations Manager.

This breakthrough in the production of soil conditioner using household wastes is a game changer in the mining industry, where tons of fertilizers are needed to help improve the soil condition in the mined-out areas.

Lateritic soil in mining areas are relatively low in soil nutrients and unconducive for agriculture. The challenge of nutrient deficiency of lateritic topsoils can be addressed only with proper intervention in order for the mined-out areas to be ready for rehabilitation programs.

In a series of Waste Analysis and Characterization Study, it is shown that each household can produce at least 1.5 kg of wastes per day.  What are needed to produce soil conditioners are wet wastes or table leftovers, fruits and vegetable peelings, and backyard wastes such as leaves and the like -- no plastics included of course.

In Rio Tuba, 80 kilos of household wastes are collected per day with about 64 houses and select establishments initially participating in the program.

“It is encouraging to see the communities participate, showing commitment to segregation and becoming conscious of the individual’s role in the production of soil conditioners,” said Engr. Cynthia E. Rosero, RTN’s Resident Mine Manager.

“Aside from using our own organic fertilizers in the mine’s rehabilitation programs, the goal is to be able to provide soil conditioners that the communities and our employees can use in their backyard gardening in exchange for household wastes, as result this will limit our dependence on expensive commercial fertilizers,” said Paeste.

Topics: Rio Tuba Nickel Mining , Department of Science and Technology , Cynthia Rosero , Waste Analysis and Characterization Study , Wilbern Blitz Paeste , Bong dela Rosa
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