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Harita Nickel Preserves Obi Aquatic Ecosystem through Coral Reef Initiative

05 June 2024

Harita Nickel, a nickel mining and processing technology company, is successfully preserving Obi Island's aquatic ecosystem through a coral reef restoration program. Their artificial coral reef, placed in the waters near their operations, now thrives with natural coral and diverse marine life.

Observations made by Harita Nickel's Environmental Marine team during October 2022 to January 2024 reported that natural corals grew well ranging from 1.30 cm to 8.65 cm. The team also noted that 109 species of reef fish from 50 genera and 22 families were monitored in the coral reef restoration area.

These species include economically important fish that are commonly caught by local fishermen, such as grouper, snapper, and lencam. Not only fish, the artificial reefs are also inhabited by various types of other marine life, such as starfish, crabs, lobsters, and sea cucumbers.

Harita Nickel's Environmental Marine Manager, Windy Prayogo, stated that the coral reef ecosystem restoration program is one of the company's environmental service initiatives. It aims to restore degraded coral reef ecosystems, both due to natural conditions and destructive activities such as illegal fishing using bombs, so that they can be sustainable again.

Windy further explained that coral reef restoration has been carried out consistently by Harita Nickel. In this case, the company places artificial coral reefs in shallow waters with a depth of 3-5 meters. Artificial coral reefs shaped like hollow cubes (reef cubes) are arranged to form a building structure. This provides a place for natural coral to grow, creating homes for various marine biota.

"We place the reef cube in areas where the coral reefs are degraded, not where the natural coral reefs are still in good condition. The placement is determined based on a survey with criteria such as dead coral substrate, coral fragments, or sandy and relatively flat contours," he explained.

This 40x40 cm reef cube was created using leftover production materials - nickel slag and fly ash. This recycling effort supports environmental conservation activities and provides sustainable building materials.

“Currently, 1,696 Reef Cubes have been deployed across three sites near the company's operations. We plan to add more hollow cube placements in the future,” he explained.

The program goes beyond creating and positioning Reef Cubes; it involves regular monitoring and maintenance. This includes reef cubes maintenance, measuring natural coral growth, and taking notes on fish species encountered. All of these activities are of course carried out by a trained team and supported by dedicated equipment.

“Reef cubes that have been covered with natural corals and inhabited by various marine biota also indicate that the quality of seawater in the area is well maintained,” he said.

Three Functions of Coral Reefs

Reefcube harita nickel

Currently, 1,696 Reef Cubes have been deployed across three sites near the company's operations.

Dr. Nurhalis Wahidin, SP, MSc, a lecturer at the Faculty of Fisheries and Marine Sciences, Khairun University Ternate, said coral reefs have many benefits for aquatic ecosystems, coastal environments, and even humans. These benefits are summarized in three functions of coral reefs which include ecological, physical, and economic functions.

He explained in more detail the ecological function as a place for other marine life to spawn, find food, and live. Then the physical function of coral reefs as coastal protection from waves and abrasion. While the economic function of coral reefs is for the utilization of environmental services, such as tourism development.

“If the ecological function is working, coral reefs will contribute to marine biota diversity, many fish are there and can be utilized. But these functions will be lost if the existence of coral reefs decreases, both in quantity and quality,” Nurhalis explained.

Therefore, he appreciates the coral reef restoration program that has been carried out by Harita Nickel in the waters around its surrounding operations. He hopes the initiative can improve the function of coral reef ecosystems that are not only useful for marine ecosystems, but also for the surrounding community.

According to him, restoration with artificial coral reefs can become a new medium for natural coral growth. This method can also improve coral reef ecosystems whose conditions are degraded due to natural factors or human activities. On the other hand, coral saplings that attach and grow on artificial reef structures will also increase the area of existing coral reefs.

“Restoration utilizes the natural biological cycle. The coral spawning process becomes a new individual, attaches to a hard substrate and grows into a new coral reef. Transplantation is bypassed. The living ones are taken fragments, placed specifically so that they can live,” he explained.

He hopes that the initiative implemented by the company can continue by involving the surrounding community. According to him, community involvement is necessary for sustaining the programs that have been carried out by the company and at the same time giving people awareness to participate in protecting natural resources in their environment

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