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Minahasa Marine Habitat Enhancement Program

Submitted : August 16, 2002

 

Brief Overview of the Project

Unsustainable fishing practices (principally poisoning and bombing) have resulted in degradation of reefs in the coastal region of North Sulawesi. Harvesting of mangroves for construction materials has also resulted in significant degradation of this important fish nursery and feeding habitat.

Newmont Mining Corporation operates the Minahasa Gold Mine in North Sulawesi, Republic of Indonesia. Working with local communities and partners, Newmont has developed and is currently implementing the Marine Habitat Enhancement Program as a part of the Integrated Sustainable Development Program for the local area. Two key elements of this program are the Reef Ball (development of artificial reefs) and Mangrove Rehabilitation projects. The Reef Ball Project is the largest of its kind conducted by the private sector to date. These projects are being conducted in conjunction with micro-financing and training programs for local fishermen and women and other coastal conservation programs such as the Water Police and the Coastal Clean-up programs.

 

The Marine Habitat Enhancement Program at Minahasa is described here as it embodies the three pillars of sustainable development. Specifically, the program promotes a partnership between Newmont, academic institutions, NGOs and local government and communities; enhances both the marine environment and environmental awareness of the local communities; and, provides economics benefits during project implementation and subsequent to the completion of the program. The Reef Ball and Mangrove Rehabilitation projects at Minahasa have been a great success due to measurable, and therefore tangible, environmental and economic benefits since their inception in 1999. In addition, since Reef Ball construction and mangrove planting are conducted by local residents, the projects are germane to the Minahasan tradition of undertaking cooperative projects for the good of the community.

 

Three Legs of Sustainability

The Minahasa Marine Habitat Enhancement Program incorporates all three elements of sustainable development. The environmental importance of coral reefs and mangrove habitats in coastal regions and on fishery resources is well documented. Loss of coral reef habitat due to unsustainable fishing practices (e.g., poisoning and bombing) and natural factors such as climate and ecological changes (e.g., crown of thorns and bleaching) may have a significant impact on the marine ecosystem in general, and fishery resources, in particular. Coral reef habitat enhancement though the deployment of Reef Balls is therefore a significant contribution to conserving this important ecosystem and promoting a sustainable marine fisheries industry. In addition, though the involvement of local residents in the manufacturing and deployment of Reef Balls and mangrove planting, environmental awareness of local communities, which are heavily dependant on fishing, is enhanced.

 

Economic benefits of the project relate to the construction of Reef Balls and the increased fishery resources subsequent to artificial reef and mangrove habitat formation. In respect to Reef Ball construction, Newmont purchased the license for Reef Ball manufacturing and provided construction training to local residents, who are contracted to make the Reef Balls. Increased revenues through increased fishery resources are already being demonstrated by increased fishing activity over the Reef Ball sites established in 1999. Additional micro-finance programs for the local fishery enterprises (e.g., funding for boats, engines, cold storage facilities, etc.) implemented by Newmont are designed to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishing industry in the area.

Social benefits of the project arise from the full inclusion and participation of local residents demonstrating the connection between environmental conservation and increased resources for the local communities. Training and education (techniques in sustainable fishing, processing, storing, transporting and marketing) programs implemented by Newmont will further enhance the sustainability of program.

 

Measurable Results

Surveys of Reef Ball sites have been ongoing at Minahasa since 1999 to monitor the development of the artificial reefs. The survey techniques employed are internationally established protocols for description and quantification of coral ecosystem components and are conducted by divers using SCUBA. These surveys have been conducted by independent scientists, scientists from Sam Ratulangi University in Manado and scientific staff of Newmontís Environmental Department. The surveys of the Reef Ball sites are being conducted on a quarterly basis. Time-series results of surveys conducted at Reef Ball sites may therefore be used to quantify and document coral growth and changes in abundance and composition of coral fish communities.

Mangrove rehabilitation is planned for a total of 5 ha in the local area. To date, 1 ha has been rehabilitated and approximately 10,000 mangrove seedlings of local species have been produced in the community nursery. Measurement and quantification of the resulting mangrove habitat (both in terms of area and number of trees) is therefore relatively simple.

Qualitative fish catch information may also be derived by systematic interviews with fishermen and women. For example, questions and documentation of data regarding fish caught (e.g., type, size, weight, value, etc.) will provide an indication of the impacts of the Reef Ball and Mangrove Rehabilitation projects on the local fishery industry. These surveys/interviews would be conducted on a regular basis to qualitatively assess temporal trends in the quantity and quality of fish caught in local waters.

 

Replicability

The application of the Marine Habitat Enhancement Program to other coastal sites is highly appropriate given the programís simplicity, relatively low implementation costs and short-term realization of benefits to the local marine environment, coastal habitat and fishery resources. Since 1999 at Minahasa, approximately 3000 Reef Balls have been deployed at three main locations, demonstrating that significant artificial reef initiation can be achieved in a relatively short time span. The Minahasa site represents the largest Reef Ball Project undertaken by a private company in the world, and second only in size to the Reef Ball Project implemented by the Malaysian Government.

The replicability of the project has been demonstrated by a recent agreement between Newmont and two Diving Centres in Manado, whereby Newmont will provide approximately 300 Reef Balls for establishing two artificial reefs (house reefs) for the centres. Other coastal villages have also requested Reef Ball deployment in their local waters and plans are currently underway to extend the Reef Ball Project to these nearby villages. Additional Reef Ball projects in Asia, Australia, Middle East, North and South America demonstrate the ease of replication of this marine habitat enhancement technique.

Considerable local expertise in Mangrove Rehabilitation has been developed as part of this program. A community organization responsible for the Mangrove Rehabilitation Project, which is managed by local residents, has recently been established. This organization has drafted a zone plan (including areas for conservation, plantation, aquaculture and recreation) which has been submitted for ratification by the Village Assembly.

 

Innovation/Inspiration

Although the technology employed in this project is not new, Reef Balls have been deployed in over 1,500 projects worldwide, the integration of this technique with a comprehensive Marine Habitat Enhancement Program has resulted in a significant advance in sustainable fishing practices and environmental awareness in the area of the Minahasa Mine. The community participatory approach embraced by this project has also promoted a real feeling of ownership by all partners, in general, and the local residents, in particular.

Mangrove species selection by local community members has resulted in significant innovation on a local scale. The community organization responsible for mangrove rehabilitation has also led the process of assessing the suitability of species for their local area and conditions. This participatory approach has also been a significant source of inspiration for local residents that can observe the results of their efforts in enhancing their local environment.

 

Partnerships

Newmont considers local communities, government officials, lending agencies and non-government organizations to be its partners in implementing sustainable mining practices at all its sites. Newmont pledge to its partners is a legacy of increased prosperity, healthier, better-educated people with marketable job skills, and at closure, reclamation of the environment to a level consistent with pre-mining use.

Several organizations and community groups have been collaborating in the Reef Ball Project. The principal partners in the project were the Marine Ecology Department at Sam Ratulangi University in Manado, Association of Scientific Divers (ASPISIA-NGO), the Reef Ball Foundation, Water Police, local government, local residents and Newmont. These groups and organizations have been involved in various aspects of the Reef Ball Project including Reef Ball fabrication, site selection, ocean deployment and ecological monitoring of the artificial reefs. The Water Police, which have been established and funded by Newmont, are responsible for reporting and arrest (in case of repeat offenders) of people engaged in illegal fishing practices, such as reef bombing and poisoning.

Initial training of local communities in mangrove rehabilitation techniques and protocols was conducted by University of Sam Ratulangi, ASPISIA and Newmont. Subsequently the local communities have led the processes of site selection, species selection, growing of mangrove seedlings and planting and mangrove habitat monitoring. It is envisaged that the recently developed community organization responsible for the Mangrove Rehabilitation Project will become partners with community members from other villages that desire the implementation of the project in their local areas.


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