Ecological Survey at Barangay Larap.
Seedling nursery at Barangay Larap.
By ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ
INITIAL results of a research study on the mangrove areas and the abandoned mining camp in Larap, Jose Panganiban, CamNorte, suggested the two target sites needed immediate rehabilitation.
The study also revealed that some portions of mangrove areas in Larap have started to turn into beach forest type, which means these areas have been completely deforested.
The research study will become the basis of a proposed major initiative to rehabilitate Larap’s deforested mangrove areas and to reforest the mined out sites in the community.
Led by Teodoro Licarte, an environmentalist, the group was funded by a grant from Rufford Small Grants Foundation, with scientific assistance from Prof Pastor L Malabrigo, Jr, who acted as the project team biologist.
Prof Malabrigo, who specializes in taxonomy, has already determined the tree species that would grow well in the mangrove areas and in the mined out sites.
The team earlier conducted an ecological survey in October and December 2012 to find out the vegetation existing in the project’s target sites.
The research team was assisted by a group of local environmental advocates called the Jose Panganiban Environmental Protectors Association (JPEPA), composed of members who used to work at the defunct Philippine Iron Mines (PIM), which operated a mining camp in Larap.
The organisation is already registered with the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE).
The team and its local partners established a 10m x 10m nursery plots and the geographic locations at the project site was established using the GPS (global positioning system).
Licarte said the “envisioned outcome of this proposed project is a shift from irresponsible mining to mining with environmental consideration”.
A major target outcome of this proposed project is the reforestation using the concept of natural selection.
“This is a dense planting of endemic species (local trees) with 2-3 seedlings per square meter and using a thick mulch of rice straws to minimize maintenance activities.
Licarte said this will determine the potential natural vegetation of the project area.
This will be used in the proper selection of the combination of species to be planted in the proposed sites.
With this, the team would be able to project the growth and yield of the established plantation.
This scheme would provide scientific data to determine the importance of natural vegetation technique in the ecological succession of degraded lands – abandoned mine sites in this case, Licarte said.
According to the local people, several decades ago, crabs, shrimps and fish could be seen in the shoreline.
But due to loss of its habitat, this marine life has disappeared.
“This is one of the biggest challenges of the project … to bring back those driven-away species caused by habitat loss,” said Licarte.
Larap was host to the abandoned mining camp of the Philippine Iron Mines (PIM), which operated the only iron mine in the Philippines during those years.
When its operations became unprofitable in the 1970s, the company folded up and abandoned the mine, leaving dozens of building structures all over the camp.
Likewise, hundreds of families dependent on the mine for livelihood bailed out, while those with no place to go stayed put and survived on hand-to-mouth-existence source of income.
A decade later, the entire mine camp turned into a “Mad Max-like desert” where skeletons of trees and rusty mining camp structures and colonies of “talahib” grass dotted the area.
A mild blow of wind from the nearby bay was enough to stir up blinding dusts in several inches thick that settled all over the mining camp.
PIM’s operations were also the biggest polluter of the Larap Bay into which mine tailings in massive volumes had been dumped since it began operations from the 1930s.
During those years, tailings ponds for containing mining wastes were unheard of.
The camp’s open pit mine measuring 1km long, 500m wide and 500m deep morphed into an artificial lake – a silent witness to the once prosperous mining community, now desolate and poor.
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