Two ecological specificities are present on Halmahera Island. First, Halmahera Island is located in the vicinity of the three ecological borders of Wallace, Weber and Lydekker. The island thus contains a mix of fauna and flora species from Asia and Australasia. Second, the island is in the centre of the Coral Triangle, recognized worldwide for its coastal and marine biodiversity, which extends from the northern Philippines, west to Borneo and Bali and east to the Solomon Islands. In this context, WBN focuses specifically on biodiversity for this greenfield project, by conducting a detailed characterization of the local and regional biodiversity (habitats, fauna and flora) and ecosystem services. On the basis of such studies, the Project will be able to manage its impact on biodiversity by taking appropriate avoidance, mitigation, on-site rehabilition and offsetting measures. WBN will develop, as part of its ESHIA Phase 1 requirements, a specific Biodiversity Action Plan ensuring a no net loss and if required a net gain in biodiversity (as per International Finance Corperation Perfomance Standard 6 on Biodiversity Conservation requirements).
Terrestrial and marine biodiversity surveys are being finalized in preparation of the ESHIA Phase 1 in compliance with International Finance Corperation Performance Standard 1 and 6 requirements. The goal of those surveys is to build an as complete as possible picture of the habitats, fauna and flora present in the project area and to assess project potential impacts on these.
According to existing scientific literature and as confirmed by the results of subsequent terrestrial baseline surveys commissioned by WBN, the island has high endemism levels for birds, bats and reptiles. Moreover, Halmahera Island, mostly covered by evergreen tropical forests dominated by flora of Melanesian origin, displays complex vegetation patterns and habitat diversity. Literature research indicates a limited botanical knowledge of this area, with a high potential for new species to science.
Regarding marine biodiversity, the first results have revealed that corals, even if the referenced species are common, show a good conservation state, which is rare in the region due to blast fishing. The mangroves of Weda Bay, displaying high mangrove species diversity, are generally also in good condition. As regards sea grass, surveys showed that species recorded from Weda Bay are common throughout Indonesia.
WBN recognizes the biodiversity, ecological functions and ecosystem services associated with the forest within its Contract of Work. The project is therefore committed to managing its impacts on biodiversity by taking appropriate avoidance, mitigation, on-site rehabilitation and offsetting measures. The total area to be used for mining and processing over the planned 50-year operating lifespan will correspond approximately to 6% of the total contract area.
This is why WBN, early on in its life cycle (exploration), has been developing and implementing an Environmental Management Program, of which the two key themes are biodiversity management and rehabilitation . This approach aims to ensure that mitigation is applied early on, from exploration onwards. Some examples of the associated actions are:
- Reforestation trials
Starting in 2008, WBN has been performing a rehabilitation and reforestation trial program in the Bukit Limber resource area. Here, 12 Ha were cleared in 2007 for a mining test (test pit). Since then, the reforestation program has shown a 90% survival rate for over 7,000 tree seedlings.
WBN has operated tree nurseries since 2003 to provide the stocks for the reforestation trials in the lower montane and lowland forests, and to collect valuable information to ensure a successful and progressive reforestation program once full scale mining commences. These nurseries are used to propagate tree species sourced from the surrounding forest and to research their ability to adapt to disturbed soils. Two nurseries have been implemented and have succeeded in propagating over 30 local tree species with a high survival rate. More work is under way to check possibility to increase that number.
- Permanent Forest habitat monitoring plots
WBN has also delineated six permanent forest plots, consisting of one-hectare parcels, at different locations and forest habitats that occur in the project area (mangrove, lower montane on ultramafic soils, lowland forest on alluvial soils, lowland forest on ultramafic soils, lowland forest on karst and at the interface between lowland and lower montane forest) to observe and monitor the impact of mining operations on the surrounding environment. These sanctuaries will also form natural “seed banks” of local species for future restoration activities. The plots provide data on growth rates which assists in the development of completion criteria for restoration. Finally the plots also allow WBN to quantify the role of refuge for fauna. Four permanent plots have already been identified, established, measured and tagged.
In addition, a field booklet on Flora of PT WBN Contract of Work has been created in order to raise awareness among local communities and Project employees on the diversity of flora found in and around the WBN Contract of Work.
Marine biodiversity protection
The reefs of Weda Bay are located in the heart of Coral Triangle and have a high ecological value. Even if the referenced species are considered common, they are diverse and show high level of integrity and continuity. WBN has already expressed its willingness to develop and support innovative solutions to preserve the coral reefs in its project area, in conjunction with local communities and other partners. WBN has also given its full support to the Central Halmahera Government to work on alternative solutions for local people who lose income since it is now forbidden to use coral as a source of construction material.