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Forestry officials visit SMM study site on Isabel Province

Forestry officials, SMM representatives including local caretakers and landowners at Leleghia 6, the study site peak point overlooking the plots

OFFICIALS from the Ministry of Forestry and Research paid visit to Sumitomo Metal Mining’s (SMM) Mine Rehabilitation study site.

The site was established around 2012 and geared towards investigating re-vegetation methods through replanting and natural succession, and control of soil erosion, targeting especially after propose mining operations in Isabel and Choiseul.

The research study was established in collaboration with Soil Plant Environment (SPE) Analytical Consultancy who specialises in soil, plants and environment analytical services.

Various commercial tree species of both local and introduced are raised and nursed in an established nursery and planted in replicates in separate trial plots covering almost ten hectares of land located some five kilometres inland at Leleghia Six.

Forestry Permanent Secretary, Vaeno Vigulu who was the team leader was overwhelmed to observe such an initiative, especially the effort SMM took to ensure studies and trials on revegetation and erosion control have been conducted prior to the propose mining.

“This showed SMM is already concerned about post rehabilitation of its operation on both Island Provinces. Promoting local commercial species including Tubi and other local pine species is a credit to the rehabilitation trial. This is an example of a well-planned out operation.

Dr Shane Tutua, SPE Analytical Managing Director (right-far end) explaining methods used when nursery of the various plants

“Such a detail study and trial of plant species is costly and time consuming, however the benefits to it on the long run are more significant.

“Establishing similar trial in the future to support post mining rehabilitation would be expensive.

“Having the knowledge before the actual mining operations began is excellent as post mining rehabilitation methods with species had been determined.”

Mr Vigulu said the forestry ministry is excited indeed to be consulted and given that opportunity to become part of this studies and plant trials.

“The Ministry within its capacity is willing to provide its vast technical expertise wherever needed.

“The initial results, about five years period is encouraging and the trial management should continue to determine the growth and canopy cover in the years to come.

“This research trial plot gives opportunity for future studies”.

SPE Analytical Managing Director, Dr Shane Tutua explains that there are different plots of some similar plants and others various different plants.

Tubi trees planted as shown in one of the plots is part of the investigation and study carried out by SMM and SPE Analytical.

He said studies into the plants behaviour within different plots are also carefully assessed.

Including their relationship to the environment and the landscape itself, said Dr Tutua.

He said emphasis of the study targets mainly the social and environmental benefits of the plants, especially how well they can be of help to recover vegetation at the ending of a mining operation.

Thus trials on plants and studies into how best soil erosion can be minimised including other factors are closely assessed, he explains. Soil erosion is one of the main issue to control if the mining will be open cut.

SMM Representative, Nicholas Biliki said the Mine Rehabilitation study site was initially established years back, since 2012.

He said SMM always have concerns for the environmental and rehabilitating any propose mining operations is paramount wherever the company carry out its work.

Deputy Commissioner Herbarium, Fred Pitisopa takes close look at one of the methods used with grass to help ease
soil erosion

Such a concern and initiative taken by SMM is important because it publicly puts into picture the kind of operation it undertakes and concerns that it has with the environment and the people as this determines its acceptance on where to operate next, he said.

SMM is a multimillionaire company and operates Nickel mining in other parts of the world. What is being implemented here is a replicate of their business in other parts of the world.