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Lady scientist leads pioneering method to revive Marinduque’s mining wastelands

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By Martin Sadongdong

A female scientist’s efforts to revive the degraded and abandoned mining sites in Marinduque have shown promising results through a new method of bioremeditation she developed, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said.

Bioremediation, touted by scientists as a biological response to environmental abuse, uses microorganisms to clean up contaminated sites.

Dr. Nelly Aggangan (UPLB BIOTECH FACEBOOK PAGE / MANILA BULLETIN)

Dr. Nelly Aggangan
(UPLB BIOTECH FACEBOOK PAGE / MANILA BULLETIN)

It is normally employed to address environmental pollution caused by heavy and toxic metals through mining and other metallurgical processes.

Dr. Nelly Aggangan, a University of the Philippines (UP) Los Banos-based researcher of the National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP), developed new bioremeditation protocols and used it to restore a part of the 32-hectare mined dumpsite in Mogpog, Marinduque.

Promising growth

The soil in the area was already considered as nutrient-depleted but Aggangan said trees such as narra, acacia and eucalyptus showed “healthy growth in degraded land soil with the help of beneficial fungi and bacteria that strengthen plant tolerance to high acidity and heavy metals present in the soil.”

“Tree species, especially those that are not native in the country may differ in growth performance, nutrient requirement and tolerance to soil acidity so it is important to establish a condition that could maximize their growth,” she explained.

Aggangan said seedlings of the trees were “inoculated with a combination of fungi and nitrogen-fixing bacteria before they were transplanted to the mined out sites.”

Science at work

The study found that seedlings treated with fungi and bacteria have significantly higher survival rate in the mined out sites compared to plants without amendments, she added.

“A symbiosis exists between the fungus and the root of the host plant. The fungus colonizes the root system, facilitating increased water and nutrient uptake while the plant provides the fungus with carbohydrates as food which is formed during photosynthesis,” Aggangan said.

The NRCP served as the funding agency for Aggangan’s bioremeditation research and she presented the protocols to the government of Marinduque last month.

A simple turnover of a policy brief to the government of Marinduque and different stakeholders was also held to further intensify the project implementation in Marinduque.

Mining disaster

The DOST said Marinduque became a victim of what was considered as one of the largest mining disasters in the Philippine history.

On March 24, 1996, a drainage tunnel of a large pit ruptured and spilled millions of tons of mine waste or tailings into the Makulapnit-Boac river system, displacing several villages and killing marine life.

Marinduque Governor Carmencita O. Reyes appreciated the output of Aggangan’s studies and research as she considered it “a welcome technology to Marinduque that will benefit the people and save the province’s natural resources nearly destroyed by irresponsible mining companies.”

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