[Coral-List] latest on coral mining on Majuro

Dean Jacobson atolldino at yahoo.com
Fri Dec 9 02:31:25 EST 2011



  I just posted a very short video on a new lagoon site where coral dragline mining by PII is proposed on Majuro atoll, for the FAA runway safety zone project.  A few weeks ago the proposal was to mine the reef flat inside the coral zone, all the way from the airport terminal to the far end of our water reservoirs (a kilometer).  As an option presented at a recent public hearing, this was clearly unpopular.

The latest proposal plans to directly destroy, by draglining with a huge land-based crane, a large area of shallow, near-shore coral that is clearly quite rich in fish (I swam it today, at the suggestion of the manager of our local EPA, since no "official" site survey had been required or even proposed).  This is also a popular fishing area.  At first, out of relief that a small beach near the airport would not be destroyed, I weighed the possibility that this would be tolerable compromise.  Then I visited the reef.  If it had been a Halimeda wasteland without much coral, as it is 6 or 7 km to the west (due to COTS damage) I would not object, but this is nearly 100% healthy coral cover, interspersed with small sand-filled borrow pits. Great fish habitat, lots of branching Acropora, which is locally unusual. FAA and their supporters in US State Dept. are indirectly asking the Marshallese people to sacrifice some of their food security for the money
 that will come to PII for the construction project, while US EPA and Fish and the Wildlife service is encouraging coral protection.  I think the Marshallese have already sacrificed enough.

Here's the crux: outside a narrow band of coral, a shallow rubble zone could be mined from this location with minimal environmental insult; it simply can't be mined from shore.   And its "cheaper", using a discredited calculus, to mine from shore.  (Assuming a living reef has no value)

It is time we as a community again suggest that these repeated attempts to mine living coral be ended, that FAA be asked to make it clear that the project can proceed only if the required 14,000 dump truck loads of fill be sourced beyond the coral-rich fringing reefs.  The lagoon is an inexhaustible source of sand and rubble (known in the trade as aggregate).  Pardon this additional appeal, but respectful, appreciative emails to my one and only contact, Ron.V.Simpson at faa..gov strikes me as a good idea.  Recall that FAA intervened once already, thankfully preventing the mining of a spectacular coral wall on the west end of the runway.  One of my students recently swam the site, and agreed that it is unique to the region.  The sense of happy satisfaction, that this wall is still intact, is simply marvelous.

Curiously, due to the strong political currents on island, I was not allowed to show my informal survey photographs to the EPA board of directors.  The manager, however, was happy to see my results just before the meeting.

Thanks again for your help!
Dean Jacobson
College of the Marshall Islands

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