Nickel Asia steps up aid amid COVID

Reprinted from The Daily Tribune

Mining firm Nickel Asia Corp. (NAC) has stepped up efforts to help mitigate the effects of the economic slowdown in areas where they operate.

In Surigao del Norte, construction is underway for a molecular laboratory which is aimed at boosting pandemic response through faster diagnostic results which made local officials optimistic on the rapid identification of infected patients and faster contact tracing to limit the contagion.

Surigao del Norte assistant provincial administrator Sim Castrence said the laboratory’s construction in Surigao City started last month.

“Governor Francisco Matugas has urged the mining companies to help build the molecular laboratory in the province to boost our fight against Covid-19,” Castrence said.

Nickel Asia joined hands with Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp (THPAL) to establish the P28-million molecular testing laboratory (MTL).

The MTL has the capacity to process at least 2,000 samples using the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method.

NAC-TMC is one with the province of Surigao del Norte in helping our schools become back-to-school ready.

Roberto Parada of the provincial information office of Surigao del Norte said the laboratory will have the capacity to process at least 2,000 specimens per day.

Castrence said the MTL is being built on a 2,000-square meter property of the Surigao State College (SSC) in Barangay Bonifacio, Surigao City.

“The members of the board of SSC already approved the establishment of the lab through a usufruct agreement with the city government of Surigao and the provincial government of Surigao del Norte,” Castrence said.

Parada said the provincial government has begun the hiring process for the facility’s staff and personnel in anticipation of its operationalization next month.

“The laboratory needs one manager, a laboratory supervisor, eight medical technologists, 12 specimen collectors who are preferably medical technologists and nurses, and four computer encoders,” he said.

Education gets priority

NAC subsidiary Taganito Mining Corp (TMC) recently turned over some 7,172 workbooks worth P2 million to the provincial government of Surigao del Norte for the use of public schools in the province.

NAC-TMC said the workbooks were handed over to Surigao del Norte Governor Francisco Matugas as part of its Social Development and Management Program.

“NAC-TMC is one with the province of Surigao del Norte in helping our schools become ‘back-to-school ready’”, the mining firm said, adding the school materials will also benefit schools in Siargao Island.

The turnover of workbooks was led by NAC-TMC resident mine manager, Engr. Artemio E. Valeroso. and witnessed by Dr. Nelia Lomosco, the schools division superintendent of the Department of Education in Surigao del Norte.

“We are very happy and very thankful. We sincerely thank the Taganito Mining Corporation for this great donation. This will go a long way. The workbooks will be for the benefit of our learners in the island paradise of Siargao,” Lomosco said.

NAC-TMC is engaged in mining and exporting nickel ore in barangays Hayanggabon, Urbiztondo, Taganito and Cagdianao in the municipality of Claver, Surigao del Norte.

Sorghum as rice substitute

Another NAC subsidiary, Cagdianao Mining Corporation (CMC), has introduced sorghum as an alternative to rice in Dinagat Islands to ensure food security amid the pandemic.

CMC agriculturist Jessie Dumanig said the company decided to choose sorghum for cultivation among local farmers following the success of a three-month trial run at a rehabilitated mined-out area.

The uncertainty the pandemic has brought to the communities compelled farmers to re-assess their farming techniques.

Dumanig said the 20 kilos of sorghum harvested earlier this month proved that sorghum can be propagated on a lateritic area, where local farmers have difficulty growing rice and other crops because the soil naturally lacks enough nutrients.

In addition, he said sorghum — currently being promoted by the Mindanao Development Authority because it is cheaper to produce and yields higher profit than other crops, such as corn — is easier to grow and healthier because it contains less sugar.

According to Dumanig, the idea of sorghum cultivation came from CMC environmental manager Phoebe Jean Alac, who started searching for fast-growing crops that are not only fit for the area’s soil constraints but are readily available locally.

He noted the company had difficulty obtaining seedlings for the company’s demonstration farms when the Covid-19 pandemic was declared in March.

Alac, a marine biologist and environmental planner, said sorghum was a natural choice because it can be planted all year round with less water requirement.

“The uncertainty the pandemic has brought to the communities compelled farmers to re-assess their farming techniques to ensure food security for their family, so the circulation of the seedlings became a bit controlled and were kept in smaller groups.

We had to look for alternatives, and sorghum is perfect,” Alac explained.

“We want alternatives to rice and sorghum saved the day. Sorghum is rich in fiber, protein, and calcium,” she added.

Engr. Arnilo C. Milaor, CMC resident mine manager, said the company is gearing to promote sorghum and other cash crops for adoption among local farmers after seeing its potentials.

“Especially because of the pandemic, CMC has stepped up its efforts to protect food security by encouraging the people in the mining communities to consider high-value crops. Sorghum is good because it can withstand heat and the dry season plus it is in demand even in international markets so we are promoting this in the communities,” Milaor said.

“Sorghum does not need special irrigation, the rain is enough; our only problem is the birds who love to feast on them,” Milaor pointed out.

Meanwhile, Dumanig said that as part of the company’s five-year agroforestry initiative, local farmers will be trained on “calendar farming.”

“Basically, it means farmers would shift from being supply-oriented to demand-driven, planting and harvest will be paced accordingly to ensure the continuous supply of agricultural produce. Plus, there will be income from other crops because the soil is healthy enough to yield the entire year,” Dumanig said.

CMC, an affiliate of Nickel Asia Corporation, is mining export-grade nickel ore in Barangay Valencia in Cagdianao.

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