Decades before Cuba’s Alejandro de Humboldt National Park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, the state-owned predecessor of the Moa Joint Venture received a concession to develop a mineral deposit within the park. Preliminary, small-scale exploration work was carried out on this deposit, once in the 1970s and again in the 1990s. In the mid-1990s, the Cuban government declared the park to be a protected area, requiring any type of mining or industrial activities to cease.
Absolutely no exploration work of any kind has been carried out in the park since then. In 2008, the Moa Joint Venture officially relinquished its concession. About three years later, at a meeting with Cuba’s National Council of Hydrographic River Basins, the Joint Venture agreed to evaluate the best approach to rehabilitating the impacted areas and to include this work in its annual environmental management plans going forward. Around that same time, the Park Authority was commissioned to carry out an impact assessment.
This collaboration ultimately led to the development of a long-term biodiversity management plan to restore the impacted areas in the park. This plan was executed collaboratively by the Moa Joint Venture, Cuban regulatory agencies and the Park Authority. It encompassed soil conservation; the creation of hydro regulation channels to restrain floodwater and prevent erosion; reforestation of endemic species such as the ocuje (Calophyllum antillanum), which is prized for producing a very hard, durable wood, and the Cuban oak; as well as other initiatives. In 2017, the rehabilitation work in Alejandro de Humboldt National Park concluded.
In addition to this important conservation work in the park, our reclamation team in Moa has been working for many years on restoring areas in and around the mine site, to meet the requirements outlined in our environmental permit. This restoration work includes testing new methods for erosion control and different plant species for survivability. The soil around Moa is quite acidic, meaning that not all vegetation can flourish there, but our highly educated team on the ground is experienced in reforestation and reconstruction for such areas.
Previous years have seen rehabilitation impacted by large storm events, most recently being Hurricane Irma in 2017, but 2018 proved to be a favourable year for planting, implementing erosion control and monitoring effectiveness of programs without the threat of poor weather. Activities during the year included removal of invasive plant species and garbage, new planting and pruning.
During 2018, 20 hectares were rehabilitated and maintenance work was conducted on previous existing plantations at approximately 445 hectares. The aim is to achieve the conditions required to return these sites to the country’s forest estate, which in turn will allow the company to withdraw the lands successfully rehabilitated from the current mining concessions.