The Mining Forest Program 2023
As Eramen Minerals, Incorporated (EMI) firmly stands with its vision of Excellence in Mining through Innovation coupled with its commitment of complying with national and international environmental laws and standards, the Company has developed a program for ecological and technological advancement. This innovative program amplified the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEP) thus realizing the most appropriate, scientific and systematic approaches in managing natural, human-assisted and man-made ecosystem specifically areas subjected to mining activities.
The Mining Forest Program (MFP) is a vital program of environmental management in mining industry. It is imperative to determine portion of the mineral forest stand whether it is economically viable to mine or not. Thereafter, in this premise, the plan will be drawn and the direction will be laid and implemented. Prior to any mine development, the following activities are being done by EMI: (1) conducted vegetation modelling; (2) rapid assessment on biodiversity, GHG and water storage; (3) construction of environmental control structures enclosing the allowable cutting area for mining development; (4) earth-balling of seedlings and saplings that will be affected by tree cutting activity; and (5) tree-cutting following the most appropriate logging engineering method.
On top of the best management practices on environmental aspects in surface metallic mining, the said program gives high emphasis on environmental fortification prior to mine development through meticulous modelling of natural vegetation and scientifically determine site-species suitability. The vegetation modelling and site-species matching dictate the species of planting stocks to be generated, formulation of plantation design as well as techniques and methods of plantation establishment and throughout the mine closure process consistent maintenance and protection efforts. This can be attained by providing a well-engineered and stable post-closure landscape with fully established superior plantations, hence, improving forest services by means of continuous application of both conventional and innovative silvicultural treatments, employing technological advance i.e. microbial seeding and dosing of cytokinin enhancer, among other techniques.
Along with the concrete results revealed by the research studies conducted by Eramen Minerals, Incorporated since 2021, it is notable that the progressive rehabilitation, enrichment and enhancement of mining forest of the Company is entirely congruent to Sustainable Development Goals specifically SDG13 and SDG15 without compromising, yet, enhancing the biological diversity thriving, spawning and breeding thereto.
EMI has established three (3) forest nurseries located at Bolas (2) and Pimmagong (1). The old central nursery of EMI was transformed to Center for Technological Advancement (CTA) and Envi Production Area, producing supplementary soil implements for planting stock production and revegetation programs, venue for Technological Researches and Fabrication, and production of livestock such as goats, pigs, chicken, fishes, ducks, etc. The Bolas Central Forest Nursery, which was constructed in CY 2022, occupied an area of one (1) hectare which accommodate 500,000 seedlings featuring two (2) rearing sheds, potting shed, storage room, cytokinin production, hydroponics area, Automated Weather Station (AWS), and Forest Laboratory for non-mist propagation, while Pimmagong Forest Nursery, which was constructed this CY 2023, has an area of 2,655 square meters with a stocking capacity 250,000 seedlings and also features ecotourism park showcasing aviary, butterfly garden, orchidarium, herbal and ornamental area, arboretum, bambusetum, Agroforestry, Forest Laboratory for in vitro propagation, rearing shed, and among others.
The nurseries are equipped with a water system feed by perennial creeks named Bolas Creek and Libtong Creek. The feed pipelines are connected to the fully functional sprinkler and misting system installed around the innovative forest nurseries.
In addition, the rearing shed are lined with tarpaulin to prevent proliferation of grasses and weeds in the walkways and rearing beds. The tarp liner collects and discharges water to sump pits. The sump pits were constructed to capture water from the rearing shed and excess water from the facility which is pump back to the elevated tank and re-circulated to the system. There are also potting sheds for preparation of mixture of microbial seeded organic matter, and fertilized soil.
Furthermore, the nurseries promote a controlled micro-climate for effective tending and conditioning of seedlings. The rearing sheds are covered with nursery nets of various degree of exposure to incoming solar radiation, consequently, aiding the balancing of localized temperature, relative humidity and moisture availability.
Forest Laboratory and Clonal Forestry Nursery Operations
The Company has established two (2) Mining Forest Laboratories sitting within the premises of the two (2) forest nurseries. The Forest Laboratory in Bolas Central Nursery is intended for non-mist and methods of clonal forestry, however, the new Forest Laboratory in East Pimmagong is designed for micropropagation or tissue culture and all other methods of cloning.
The main clonal forestry nursery shall be the one erected and constructed in East Pimmagong while the clonal nursery in Bolas is a subsidiary clonal forestry nursery equipped with same utilities installed in the forest nurseries. The main clonal nursery has a capacity more or less 50,000 seedlings and the subsidiary clonal nursery can only accommodate 25,000 standard grade seedlings.
As general procedure of Eramen Minerals, Inc. the seedlings produced in all nurseries are subjected to earlier hardening off to heighten heat tolerance of root and shoot and improve striation of bodily tissue for better onsite adaptation. This is also to avoid wilting, die back, and other pathological symptoms and diseases due to low development of heat shock protection. It has found out that the adaptation, survival and growth of seedlings traditionally hardened in a conventional nursery are seriously affected by environmental factors prevailing in a marginal and mined-out area.
Production Of Planting Stocks
It is not just re-greening or revegetation. Plantation development must be associated with high level of intellect in mineral forest management. A plantation must be healthy and vigorous that can withstand challenges of natural phenomena for future generations; hence, it shall start from the production of superior planting stocks in a more innovative forest nursery to minimize infestation of pests and emergence of pathogenic diseases.
A total of 356,530 healthy and vigorous planting stocks from seeds and clonal forestry have been produced which incorporated with microbial seeded planting media and dosed with cytokinin liquor for the period of July 2022 – June 2023. This comprised of 52 Native/Endemic Forest trees species, 8 species of Bamboos, 75 species of Herbal and Ornamentals Plants, and 30 species of mix Agri-crops and Fruit trees.
Table 1. Seedling Production from July 2022 to June 2023.
Production Of Soil Implements
Among all environmental factors, the most important component in producing viable planting stocks or seedlings is the soil which is technically called edaphic factor. Commonly, the soil strata in nickel mine is of very thin layer of top soil and subsoil, lateritic substrate, erratic limonite and saprolite layer of at most 15-20 meters and then comes the bed rock. Therefore, the soil for capping is somewhat limited, if just rely onto the stripped and piled non-acid generating (NAG) soil. EMI has engaged to innovative method of converting lateritic soil into a fertile NAG planting material. This is simply by means of microbial seeding and cytokinin liquor dosing.
The old central nursery of EMI is now transformed into Center for Technological Advancement (CTA) wherein the experimentation for soil ameliorants and supplements is taken place through the use of vermi-composting, organic composting, food composting, carbonized rice hull production, among others. There are some 7,433 sacks (of 50 kgs) of microbial seeded ameliorants produced for supplements to planting media. On the other hand, some 12,000 liters of cytokinin liquor is produced in the Center for Ecological Advancement (CEA) situated in Bolas Central Nursery.
The table below shows the production of different soil ameliorants used by the company for their rehabilitation and revegetation activities for the coverage period. Accordingly, a total of 7,433.26 sacks of assorted soil ameliorants were produced. These includes 2,464.76 sacks of Organic Fertilizer; 996.16 sacks of Food Compost; and 1,210.58 sacks of vermicasts.
Table 2. Production of Soil Implements from July 2022 to June 2023.
After declaring the area is already mined-out by Geology Department, the mine closure process will commence ensuring the area is physically and chemically stable which will no longer pose danger to plants, animals, humans and other biota. As the mined-out area is recontoured and reshaped in accordance with the future land use, reclamation activities will follow using endemic and native species. The Philippines is one of the nations that emphasizes the necessity of environmental conservation and sustainability as the world works to overcome urgent environmental concerns. Conversely, EMI has consistently funded its revegetation programs through various conservation initiatives. A total of 148.17 ha of land was rehabilitated and enhanced by the MEPED from July 2022 to June 2023. Out of the produced seedlings, some 272,867 were dispatched for transplanting, replanting and interplanting.
Table 3. Outplanted Seedlings as of June 2023
- An aggregate of 186.59 hectares mined-out which is progressively rehabilitated including the newly established 34.2 hectares plantation is designed to withstand adverse impacts of natural phenomena and climate change, hence engineered following the international standards to ensure a stable post-closure landscape.
- It was also ensured that all mined-out areas were recontoured, reshaped, and covered with top soil prior to out planting activities. Modern bench design follows standard height, width, slope, and other specification to minimize erosion. Benches were also installed with storm water controls such as silt fence, silt curtain.
- All mined-out areas are installed with necessary soil erosion controls such as wattling, barring, silt fence, coconets, etc. to mitigate sedimentation. A total of 5.57 ha of land area from the mined-out areas were installed with coconets from the coverage period.
- a total of 31,703,611 mix grasses such as bermuda, mani-mani, carabao grass, calopognium, kudzu, millet, talahib, cogon, napier, etc. were manually planted and hydroseeded to the rehabilitation areas promoting ground cover for additional soil erosion control.
- Water Sprinkler Systems were established in PRP areas as part of the MEMO Program of the Envi Department to support and guarantee the growth and survival of the out planted species. In CY 2022, sprinkler systems were installed on a total of 10.0 hectares of land. In CY 2023, the system was completely maintained. In addition, 8.74 ha more of sprinkler system for the PRP area was installed in CY 2023. As of writing, a total of 18.74 ha of PRP area was already installed with the Water Sprinkler System.
PRP (Undisturbed and Buffer Zone)
- A total of 203,341 phenotypically superior endemic and native seedlings were interplanted to enrich 43.73 hectares of old plantation and enhanced 113.97 hectares buffer zone/undisturbed areas for ecological advancement later improve forest services, outputs and support system in life, ecology, and economy.
- Among the Progressive Rehabilitated Area of EMI is the establishment of its Agroforestry System. As of CY 2023, the company has established a total of 28.0 ha of Agroforestry area. Agroforestry Model can address future challenges such as food security, environmental degradation and rural development. Agroforestry systems, which support a wide range of plant and animal species, including beneficial insects and pollinators, contribute to habitat diversity. The benefits of having trees in an area include increased soil organic matter, improved nutrient cycling, lower soil erosion, and greater soil moisture retention. Moreover, Agroforestry provides community with many sources of income by combining the production of agricultural goods, lumber, fruits, and nuts. The diversity may provide protection against market fluctuations. During the coverage period, a total of 272.315 kg of assorted fruits and vegetables were harvested from the said agroforestry system. The produce is either brought to the company’s mess hall or sold to the local employees with a significant low price than the current market price. With this, the local employees’ livelihood was being improved by supporting their sustenance.
- The Agroforestry method implemented by EMI is very known as Agro-silvi-pastoral which combines the production of livestock with crops and trees, in order to encourage sustainability and soil ameliorant output. This sustained the production of soil implements by providing source of organic matters for microbial seeding. Livestock manure from chicken, goat, pigs, ducks, etc. were composted and used for organic fertilizer production essential to rehabilitation activities.
Landscaping and Aesthetic Enhancement
- 55 ha of land located in East Pimmagong Area was also enhanced through Landscaping and Aesthetic Development Activity. The area was planted with mix herbal and ornamental plants alongside with bermuda grasses to enhance beauty and value of the property. Likewise, this provides a place of relaxation, entertainment, and peace of mind to visitors that also supports and protects the environment, biodiversity, and erosion.
Bamboo Plantation (within the MPSA)
- During the second half of 2022 about 5,596 superior bamboo culms were transplanted in the field covering an area of 12.5 hectares while in the first half of 2023 some 2,721 culms occupied an area of 5.64 hectares new plantation. Thus, resulting to an aggregate area of 18.14 hectares of bamboo plantation was established within the MPSA having a total outplanted culms of 8,317 pieces. To date, a total of 48.87 ha of Bamboo plantation was already established by the company within and outside its mining tenement.
Biodiversity Conservation Management And Protection
- Committed to the conservation and protection of a wide range of species and ecosystems, the EMI has established a 10.0 ha Biodiversity Conservation Area (BCA) located within its mining tenement area in CY 2021. The area was maintained from the year it was established and up-to-date through mastication – combination of thinning and mulching – to perpetuate growth of threatened species. The aforementioned area is also home to native/endemic species which serves as mother trees and source of future propagates for future planting stock production. The established BCA aims to prevent genetic loss specially keystone species.
- The BCA will also act as field gene bank, as of this writing, to protect 140 species of flora belonging to 101 genera, and 54 families based on the rapid biodiversity assessment within the reference ecosystem with respect to its vegetation model.
- Protection and invitation of resident, trans-boundary and migratory wildlife species is also one of the key objectives of establishing a BCA.
- The EMI implements biodiversity conservation programs that is likely to promote sustainable resource management. The Department has also participated in various biodiversity conservation celebration such as (i.) Plastic Free July 2022 on July 30, 2022 – conducted site wide clean-up, IEC about Waste Recycling and Waste Diversion Strategies, and provided aluminum tumblers to EMI personnel; (ii.) World Bamboo Day 2022 – Celebrated on September 13, and 24, 2022 through bamboo planting activity (outplanted 1,550 native bamboo species), Bamboo Craft Making Contest, and IEC campaign on Bamboo Morphology, Utilization, Harvesting, and Propagation; (iii.) Earth Hour Day 2023 – EMI joined the global community in supporting climate change action by turning out their lights from 8:30 PM to 9:30 PM on March 25, 2023, a short educational discussion was also conducted on the same date tackling about Climate Change and Mitigating Measures; (iv.) World Wildlife Day 2023 – during the celebration of the World Wildlife Day 2023, the 1st release of the adopted Pawikan Nests of EMI was conducted on March 4, 2023. Additionally, the EMI again adopted Pawikan Nests for CY 2023 for the conservation of Native and Endemic Pawikan Species in the Philippines; (v.) Earth Day 2023 – participated by the EMI on April 22, 2023, with six (6) activities: motorcade, zumba dance, tree planting (outplanted 1,433 native/endemic species), clean-up drives, IEC about Climate Change Mitigation and Addressing Environmental Issues, and the Mr. & Ms. Earth 2023 pageant contest; and Philippine Environment Month 2023 – participated in the World Environment Month Simultaneous Tree Planting 2023 on June 5, 2023, the EMI has planted a total of twelve thousand one hundred eighty (12,180) seedlings, composed of (22) native and endemic species in the country promoting species diversity in its rehabilitation efforts while enhancing greater ecosystem services in the future, in its mining tenement located in East Pimmagong, Block B South, Block A, and Upper Bolas.
Environmental education is critical in our drive for a more sustainable future as it raise awareness about pertinent environmental concerns, develop a sense of environmental stewardship, and stimulate collaboration and networking among like-minded people. These trainings empower individuals specifically the Envi Personnel to become active participants in environmental conservation by providing them with the essential tools and knowledge, resulting in positive change at both the individual and collective levels. Investing in environmental education is critical to building a resilient and prosperous world for current and future generations.
Forest Restoration Development Program Project
As part of the project, on October 25-28, 2022 and December 5-8, 2022, the EMI in partnership with For. Amelita Luna – a University Researcher of the University of the Philippines Los Baños – conducted a capacity building training to its Envi Personnel that provided appreciation with the use of native species in restoration projects of mined-out areas. It will provide valuable knowledge and abilities to regular nursery workers, mine rehabilitation workers, protection aids, and field staff on identifying native metallophytes and species, identifying plants using herbaria and vouchers, acclimating wildlings to earth-balling, and biodiversity conservation and ecological restoration initiatives. The training topics also included bamboo harvesting techniques, clump management, and propagation techniques.
The following topics were discussed to Envi personnel: 1.) Native metallophytes/species production for biodiversity conservation and ecological restoration initiatives of EMI; 2.) Collection of Propagules (mature fruits/seeds, wildings); 3.) Acclimatization of Wildlings and germination; 4.) Voucher/Herbarium Preparations; 5.) Bamboo Propagation, Clump Management and Harvesting; and 6.) Nursery Establishment and Management with Emphasis on Native Species in EMI.
Nursery Management Training
The above-mentioned training was supplemented by an internal training about Nursery Management conducted by For. Richelle Royce I. Tapulao. The training was conducted on December 11, 2022 and was participated by All Envi Personnel. The outline of the capacity building training is as follows: 1.) Forest Nurseries; 2.) Classification of Forest Nurseries; 3.) Source of Planting Stocks; 4.) Forest Tree Seed Technology; and 5.) Good and Poor Nursery Practices.
Services To The Community
Individuals and organizations have a moral and ethical obligation to act in ways that benefit society as a whole. The MEPED has continuously supported its stakeholders in various projects. Among of which are the following:
- Donation of 2,000 seedlings to Couples for Christ Church for their National Greening Program (NGP) Project in Brgy. Coto, Masinloc, Zambales;
- Extension works to Brgy. San Fernando, Sta. Cruz, Zambales Fire Victim – provision of clothes, canned goods, rice, etc.;
- Donation of 9,000 seedlings to Brgy. Guinabon, Sta. Cruz, Zambales for their NGP Project; and
- Donation of 1,500 seedlings to the Municipality of Sta. Cruz, Zambales and Participation to the Municipal Arbor Day Tree Planting Activity.
Ecolo-Technological Innovations Employed During The Period
Providing vital raw materials for industry, infrastructure, and technological breakthroughs, mining has been a pivotal driver for humankind advancement and economic development. Nevertheless, sustainability of mining should give emphasis on the responsible use of natural resources, reducing pollution, and mitigating biodiversity loss to minimize ecological foot print of mining. The Mine Environment Modernization (MEMO) Program, which started in CY 2021, is the key strategy for the Transformative Innovation in Mining of EMI towards sustainable and environmentally friendly mining methods. This includes the above-mentioned milestones of the company that is imperative in attaining such goal also by integrating onsite renewable energy through solar powered materials providing energy independence and security while offering long-term cost-effectiveness and savings, modern revegetation techniques of residual and natural resources through rehabilitation, restoration and reclamation, and improvement of ecosystem through different biodiversity conservation programs.
Photo Exhibit Of Forestry Development Activities