MAC: Mines and Communities

Rio Tinto playing "god"?

Published by MAC on 2018-11-19
Source: Australian Mining (2018-10-03)

... with concrete and balls!

"Coral recolonisation"! The concept initally sounds benign, doesn't it?

But what does it actually mean in practice?

"Recreating life" on a coral reef seems at least one major step too far into the unknown and uncharted - at least for a mining company. After all, one of them (Adani) is embarked on plans which threaten to do the very opposite [See: Adani accused of further Australian environmental breaches]

Now, Rio Tinto seeks to replicate sub-marine biodiversity itself, and doubtless hope to placate critics who claim it just isn't possible.

In its avid support for so-called "bio swaps" (in Madagascar, Arizona et al) the company has already prefigured taking such a fraught and deceptive route.

[Comment by Nostromo Research]

Rio Tinto recreates life on coral reef in Western Australia

Australian Mining

3 October 2018

Rio Tinto’s commitment to environmental sustainability has proven what has
never been done before: vibrancy of life can be orchestrated on human-made
reef.

Rio Tinto’s iron ore business has facilitated coral life on an artificial
reef as the first project of its kind in Western Australia.

Using over 10,000 tonnes of reconstituted concrete and 24 custom-made reef
balls, the project has managed to facilitate coral colonisation despite
thermal bleaching – in the presence of insufficient precedence. And the
recreated life stood the test of time more than 10 years later.

A 10-year monitoring result has shown that fish, as a biodiversity
indicator, has rapidly colonised the reef – not only in a population size
similar to that of the local reefs, but also in greater diversity.

In fact, 10 per cent of the coral was covered two years ahead of the
estimated time period, exceeding the Artificial Reef and Coral
Translocation (ARCT) project’s 10-year key performance indicator (KPI)
within just eight years.

Rio Tinto’s effort in this biodiversity preservation project has led it to
bring home the Excellence in Environmental Management award from the 2018
Australian Mining Prospect Awards.

The award goes to show the success of a project that was instigated by Rio
Tinto’s port expansion at the Parker Point operations in Dampier in
Western Australia, bringing net positive impact to the community in
ecological values.

Rio Tinto’s environment superintendent – port operations – Martin Buck,
says, “We feel incredibly proud of this project, and it is satisfying to
see the project being recognised within such a prestigious forum.

“We see the award as an opportunity to further promote the project,
allowing other parties to be aware of and learn from the work we’ve done
to allow replication elsewhere.”

The artificial reef project involved numerous stakeholders within Rio
Tinto: originally incepted and designed by Rio Tinto’s studies and
approvals teams, it was constructed by the company’s own engineering group
and then managed by its marine and environment teams.

“Externally, collaboration was similarly extensive,” says Buck. “With
engagement with regulators at both state and federal levels, the Pilbara
Ports authority and other key agencies, the City of Karratha, community
groups and associations as well as various other stakeholders.

“We were also ably supported by our technical specialists, MScience, who
developed the reef’s growth model, supported design, implemented field
surveys and drafted scientific reports.”

Within the first five years of moving over 1000 coral colonies, giant clam
and anemone species from the original site to the artificial reef and its
surrounds, the project team observed a burst in growth patterns.

But the high water temperatures within the region have put the project’s
10 per cent completion target at risk, extending the project’s timeline to
an additional three years.

Throughout these challenges, the corals had recovered well from the
thermal bleaching, confirming the reef’s resilience; the reef’s final
10-year survey in 2017 observed an exponential growth rate to almost 30-40
per cent of the natural levels.

Buck says, “There have been approximately 40 surveys conducted on the reef
since it was constructed, so aside from a few local anglers fishing the
area, we plan to give the reef a rest and let nature continue to take its
course.”

Rio Tinto’s pioneering work has built a platform for the sharing of
knowledge that goes beyond the mining industry: two voluntary
peer-reviewed scientific papers and an industry guidance document will be
shared to the public.

“Respect for the environment is a core part of our operational philosophy,
and wherever possible we prevent, or otherwise minimise, mitigate and
remediate, the effects that our operations have on the environment,” Buck
remarks.

“The artificial reef project is just one example of how we practically do
this within the business. … Its outcomes have exceeded our expectations
and are being transparently shared. It doesn’t get much better than that!”

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