Best of our wild blogs: 4 Jul 11

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [27 Jun - 3 Jul 2011]
from Green Business Times

Video clip of otters at Chek Jawa
from sgbeachbum

Heroic uncle catches snake with his bare hands at Jurong
from Lazy Lizard's Tales and huge bee hive in CCK

Quick Chek Jawa check up with otters and dugong!
from wild shores of singapore and teamseagrass

Final anemone hunt at Chek Jawa
from wild shores of singapore

Waxbills in Singapore
from Bird Ecology Study Group

white-breasted water hen & all about Singapore
from Wrenaissance Reflections

Red-eared Slider
from Monday Morgue

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Finally, some track-side peace and quiet

Residents near railway tracks won't miss the rumble of passing KTM trains, but want the greenery to remain
Amanda Tan Straits Times 4 Jul 11;

MR W.S. Yong, 52, has lived beside the railway tracks in Ghim Moh for 15 years.

Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) trains now start their Malaysia-bound trips from Woodlands instead of Tanjong Pagar, so he will no longer see or hear them chug past his estate.

An executive at an import-export firm, he said he would not miss them: 'It was noisy, and we sometimes had snakes and mosquitoes because of the trees and bushes around the tracks. We had to use repellent all the time.'

Ironically, he is moving away too - just when the noise and critters are finally gone.

His block is among six in the neighbourhood up for the Housing Board's Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers). They will be pulled down and new blocks built in their place.

His wife, 50, an accountant who declined to give her name, was more sentimental. She said: 'I think I'll miss it. The trains were something we saw and heard daily, but now they're gone.'

She thought back fondly 15 years, to the time when their children, now in their teens, were still babies. To keep the rattle of the evening train from waking them up, the family helper would rush to cover their ears as it passed by.

The Yongs' feelings are probably shared by those who live in private properties, condominiums and HDB estates flanking certain sections of the tracks, in areas such as Ghim Moh, Commonwealth, Holland and Bukit Timah.

The 26km of tracks between Tanjong Pagar and Woodlands will no longer be used, following the closure of the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station last Thursday.

Other track-side residents who spoke to The Straits Times said they too were relieved by the new quiet that had settled in, although they had already grown so used to the sound of passing trains that it no longer woke them up.

Commonwealth Drive resident Christopher Wong, 32, whose flat overlooks the railway line, said: 'I would hear the train rumble by at around 3am every day. After a while, you got used to the sound.'

The engineer said that, as a boy 20 years ago, he would often run to the window whenever a train went past.

Certainly, residents agree, it has become safer to use the tracks as a short cut, now that the trains no longer ply them.

Since 2009, at least five people - thought to have been cutting across the tracks as a more direct way to get to their destinations - have been hit by KTM trains.

Some residents are hoping that the value of their homes will go up, now that the decibel levels have gone down.

However, property agent Adrian Tan, 31, said: 'It might be a good thing that residents will no longer be bothered by the noise, but that is not the only factor determining property prices.

'They really depend on the market, and what other developments there are around the area.'

It has not been confirmed yet what will become of the strip of land on which the tracks sit, although the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said last week that it was considering a 'green corridor' for recreational use - one that might be incorporated into the island-wide park connector network.

A Holland area resident, who gave his name only as Mr Chan, said he was concerned about what use the land would be put to.

The 60-year-old businessman, whose house sits beside the tracks, said: 'I like the greenery. I hope they keep it as a green corridor for animal life. I bought this place for the greenery. I don't want to look up and see 40-storey flats.'

Members of the public can continue to enjoy that countryside ambience until July 17. Also, a 3km stretch from Rifle Range Road to the Rail Mall will stay open until the end of the month.

Nature Society vice-president Leong Kwok Peng, 54, said he was planning more walks there over the next two weekends.

Guided rambles might be just the thing for those nostalgic about rail travel.

IT manager Glenn Crippa, 45, who took an independent walk along the tracks yesterday, said he would miss seeing and hearing the trains near Jalan Jelita, where he lives.

Said the Australian: 'I love trains, and I was glad to take a walk here again. I wanted to see this part of history before it disappeared forever.'

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President Nathan launches book on trees at the Istana

Lim Jing Jing Channel NewsAsia 3 Jul 11;

SINGAPORE: The book - "Trees of the Istana" - took three years to write and its publication this year coincides with the United Nations designating 2011 as the International Year of Forests.

The Istana, the official residence of the Singapore President, was once a nutmeg plantation. At 43 hectares - about the size of 53 football fields - it is also home to some 10,000 trees.

The trees are cared for by the National Parks Board and their efforts have been bearing fruit. NParks said some fruits are harvested and served to guests dining at the Istana.

The trees also bear silent witness to the history of Singapore - since some have been around since colonial times.

Wong Tuan Wah, co-author of the book "Trees of the Istana" and Director of Conservation with NParks, said: "This is a huge Tembusu tree, and also one of the tallest trees in the Istana itself.

"This tree has been here for more than 150 years old. And it's been here because people have taken care of it in the past, and now it's up to us to take care of it and pass it on to the new generation."

Besides functioning as the city's green lungs, the Istana grounds have also become a science lab of wildlife in Singapore. For example, NParks recently introduced new plants and birds, including the Oriental Pied Hornbills, to observe their growth in a natural habitat.

Chief Executive Officer of NParks, Poon Hong Yuen, said: "One good reason why we do it in Istana because it's serene and well-protected, so that we can do our work quietly. The other reason actually is because key figures like Mr Lee Kuan Yew have been very encouraging of us, NParks, doing new things in Istana because these are the things that he also enjoys very much."

The Istana grounds are home to about 150 varieties of trees, and over 70 of them are featured in the book.

President S R Nathan also presented autographed copies to sponsors and donors who contributed to the President's Challenge.

Related post: The Istana is not just a green park


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Malaysia: Varsity's tiny tags to save sea turtles

Satiman Jamin New Straits Times 4 Jul 11;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) has embarked on a research programme to tag turtles with radio frequency identification (RFID) transponders to help monitor the endangered creatures.

About the size of a rice grain, the passive identification transponder (PIT) tag offers researchers a tagging method that is permanent and unobtrusive.

UMT's Sea Turtle Research Unit head Associate Professor Dr Juanita Joseph said the two-year research programme began last year at the Chagar Hutang turtle sanctuary in Pulau Redang.

She said the endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas), and the critically endangered hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), were chosen as the research subjects.

"These are the species that frequent the Chagar Hutang beach to nest each year.

"We had tagged them using metal and plastic flipper tags since we began operating there in 1993," she said, adding that the data collected through the conventional tags can be compared with the PIT tag data.

Juanita said missing tags was one of the biggest problems faced by researchers in their effort to collect accurate data on the turtles behaviour, nesting cycle and migration pattern.

"The metal or plastic tags tend to get dislodged from the flipper as the turtle travels thousands of miles across the ocean."

She said researchers normally resort to double tagging but it is not a clear-cut solution.

"We estimate flipper tag loss at around 50 percent and it means that the probability of us losing our data on a tagged turtle is also as high."

As the problem lies with information gathering, UMT's Information Technology Centre offered a solution through the use of cutting-edge PIT tags.

Although it has been used by turtle researches in more developed countries, PIT tags have a huge disadvantage over the metal tag -- it costs around RM30 a piece, compared with the RM1 for metal tags.

However, UMT overcame the problem when it signed a memorandum of understanding with Sensetech last year for the supply of affordable PIT tags and scanners.

UTM's ITC director Associate Professor Dr Mohd Pouzi Hamzah said the project got off the ground with the signing of the MOU.

"Researchers can now tag a turtle simply by injecting a PIT tag under its skin and it will stay there permanently, away from seawater, currents and other disturbances during the turtle's transoceanic journey."

A syringe with an oversized needle is used for the tagging process.

After the needle penetrates the turtle's skin, the PIT tag in the needle will be pushed and deposited without much hassle.

He said the microchip in the PIT tag stores the identification information which can be retrieved by a handheld scanner unit.

"The scanner will emit a radio signal which will be echoed by the PIT tag. The echo signal contains all the information stored in the PIT."

Juanita said the glass-encased PIT tag posed no danger to the turtle and would have virtually no potential to be damaged by the elements at sea.

"It offers the possibility of retaining a tag on a turtle for decades, which is not possible with external tags."

She said the technology would also enable the sharing of information with other researchers worldwide.

"If they have the scanner, they can read the PIT tag that we inserted here in Malaysia although they are thousands of miles away."

Juanita is hopeful that the research will help to shed light on turtles' behaviour which will help conservation efforts.

"We had barely scratched the surface as far as turtle conservation effort goes and the additional information gleaned by the use of PIT tags will help us understand them better."

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Rare Sumatran Tiger Killed by Trap in Indonesia

Jakarta Globe 3 Jul 11;

An endangered Sumatran tiger has died of its wounds after several days attempting to break free of a steel wire trap in Indonesia, an official said Saturday.

The 18-month-old male tiger was found on Friday morning and died in the afternoon near an acacia plantation in Pelalawan district of Riau province, according to Riau Conservation Agency technical head Syahimin.

"The tiger died because it could not eat or drink and it kept on bleeding. The trap wires have entered its bones," Syahimin said.

"The people in the area said the trap was intended for pigs. But any animals caught in that trap could also die," he added.

There are fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild.

Environmental activists say the animals are increasing coming into contact with people as a result of their natural habitat being lost due to deforestation.

Agence France-Presse

Tiger’s Death Not a Criminal Act, Police Claim
Fidelis E Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 5 Jul 11;

Though investigations are still ongoing into the recent death of one of the few remaining Sumatran tigers, officials said on Monday that there were no indications of criminal intent in the case.

The 18-month-old Sumatran tiger died on Saturday after spending a week caught in a trap in a forest concession in Riau. The tiger’s ribs were broken and his front paws severely injured.

The trap was set up by a villager from Bukit Kesuma hamlet in Pelalawan district, but officials insisted it was meant for boars and deer.

“If the trap was meant for tigers, then the trapper wouldn’t leave the tiger there,” said Darori, the director general of forest protection and natural conservation at the Ministry of Forestry. “Upon seeing that he had caught a tiger, he would have hidden it and sold it.”

The death of the tiger was yet another blow to efforts to conserve the endangered species, fewer than 400 of which are left in Indonesia.

Osmantri, the coordinator of anti-poaching and illegal wildlife trading for World Wildlife Fund Indonesia, said the group would prefer to wait for the results of the autopsy.

“The police think it was not a criminal act because the trapper notified local authorities and did not intend to sell the tiger,” Osmantri said. “Even if we assume that he did not intend to trap any tigers, we must still take into consideration the kind of trap he was using.”

The trap, Osmantri said, was fitted with slings that severely injured the tiger’s front paws.

“If it was only made of nylon, tigers would have easily escaped, but this trap was made of steel slings and that’s why it crushed its paws,” he said.

Osmantri also questioned why the villager took several days to report the tiger’s situation to the authorities.

The trapper discovered the tiger last Sunday but only reported it to authorities on Thursday. By the time police and conservation officials found the tiger at 8 a.m. on Saturday, it was severely famished and dehydrated. It died at 11:45 a.m. the same day.

“He was probably scared, but if it was reported sooner, there could have been a proper evacuation,” he said.

Osmantri also called for the cooperation of Arara Abadi, which owns the forest concession where the tiger was found, to help protect wildlife.

“This is not only work for local authorities but for all parties.”

ASumatran tiger caught in a steel sling trap in Riau. The 18-month-old tiger died on Saturday.

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Indonesia: Haze Problems Heating Up As Dry Season Marches In

Dessy Sagita Jakarta Globe 4 Jul 11;

As the dry season begins to take hold, officials warned on Sunday that Sumatra’s notorious haze could once again invade the airspace of neighboring countries.

“We found 45 hot spots in Riau today, up from 21 yesterday,” Sanya Gautami, an analyst at the Riau branch of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), said on Sunday.

Sanya said the wind was blowing at about five to 20 kilometers per hour, usually considered too slow to cause significant problems in neighboring countries. But she added that the direction of the wind had enabled smoke to reach Malaysia and Singapore.

“Most of the hot spots were found in Rokan Hilir and Pelalawan,” she said. “Rokan Hilir is very close to Malaysia and Pelalawan is close to Pekanbaru. Once smoke reaches Pekanbaru, there’s a good chance it will reach Singapore.”

Sanya said flare-ups were also found in the Riau districts of Dumai, Kampar and Siak, but the smoke was not too thick and breezes were light. “If the wind starts moving at 70 kilometers per hour then we really have to be worried,” she said.

State news agency Antara reported that Dumai airport was blanketed by a thin smoke, although the haze was yet to affect any flights.

The BMKG had previously warned that approaching the peak of the dry season in July and August, when high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds are common, choking haze from forest fires could pose a major problem across the region.

Purwasto Saroprayogi, head of the department that deals with forest fires at the Environment Ministry, said the ministry had taken steps to anticipate wider haze. “When fires happen, the regional government holds the biggest responsibility to handle the problem, but we will assist them every step of the way,” he said.

Purwasto said the ministry had trained local governments and community members to respond to fires. If fires were severe, he added, the ministry would cooperate with the Forestry Ministry and the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) to handle their effects.

According to the Washington-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, of 31 hot spots recently recorded in Sumatra, 28 were located in Riau.

Last month, thick haze from forest fires in Riau caused some flights to be delayed. Haze also reached Malaysia and Singapore, forcing people to stay indoors.

Fire destroys hectares of peat forest in Riau
Antara 4 Jul 11;

Dumai, Riau (ANTARA News) - Tens of hectares of peat land have been gutted by fire at Medang Kampai, Dumai, Riau Province, over the past six days.

"Until now, the local authorities and land owners have not tried to put out the fire. The fire is getting bigger," Sugianto, a local resident said here Monday.

Sugianto suspected that the peat land was burned on purpose because he had seen three people starting a fire in the area a week ago, and the fire had been left unattended.

Hamzah, chairman of the People Care For Fire team at Medang Kampai sub district, was upset that the local authorities did not try to extinguish the fire.

"The government has just made promises. But so far no one has been assigned to anticipate the spreadin of the fire," he said.

Head of the Dumai forestry service Hadiono at a separate place said he had not yet received a report about the peat land fire. He said he would coordinate with local authorities to inspect the reported fire.

Meanwhile, the US National Oceanic Atmospheric Agency (NOAA)`s Satellite 18 had detected seven hotspots in Riau, according to Riau`s meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency (BMKG).

"There are seven hotspots in Sumatra, and all of them are in Riau, namely five in Rokan Hilir District, and two in Bengkalis, Sanya Gautami, a Riau BMKG analyst, said here over last weekend.

The number of hotspots had dropped significantly from a few days ago when 36 - 56 hotspots were detected in Sumatra, mostly in Riau island, he said.

The hotspots were previously not detected due to clouds over Riau.

"At the time, none of the hotspots was detected in Riau. But, starting Friday (July 1), hotspots were seen again," she said.

Until the next two days, most of Riau areas hardly has rains. "However, in several places there will be possibilities to local rains with low intensity," she said.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Haze disturbs air traffic at Dumai's Airport
Antara 4 Jul 11;

Dumai, Riau (ANTARA News) - Haze from forest and plantation fires has forced the authorities of Pinang Kampai airport here to delay a flight for one hour.

The flight of a Pelita Air plane chartered by PT Chevron Pacific Indonesia (CPI) and serving Dumai-Jakarta route was put off for one hour, Head of the Pinang Kampai Airport Irvan said here Monday.

"The chartered plane was supposed to come in at 7.30 am WIB (Western Indonesian Standard Time). However, because visibility was below 1,000 meters, it was ordered to postpone its arrival until 8.30 am WIB," he said.

At 8.30 am WIB, visibility improved to above 2,000 meters which was fit for flights. The wind which blew at over five kilometers per hour helped to disperse the haze.

On Sunday (July 3), Pinang Kampai airport was also covered by thick haze forcing delays in several flights.

The US National Oceanic Atmospheric Agency (NOAA)`s Satellite 18 had detected seven hotspots in Riau, according to Riau`s meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency (BMKG).

"There are seven hotspots in Sumatra, and all of them are in Riau, namely five in Rokan Hilir District, and two in Bengkalis, Sanya Gautami, a Riau BMKG analyst, said here Saturday.

The number of hotspots had dropped significantly from a few days ago when 36 - 56 hotspots were detected in Sumatra, mostly in Riau island, he said.

The hotspots were previously not detected due to clouds over Riau.

"At the time, none of the hotspots was detected in Riau. But, starting Friday (July 1), hotspots were seen again," she said.

Until the next two days, most of Riau areas hardly has rains. "However, in several places there will be possibilities to local rains with low intensity," she said.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

Haze in Dumai could claim lives
Antara 4 Jul 11;

Dumai, Riau (ANTARA News) - Health authorities in Dumai have warned the public that the air quality in the region has deteriorated due to haze containing excessive sulfur dioxide which is hazardous to human health.

The Air Pollution Standard Index board owned by PT Chevron Pacific Indonesia (CPI) showed the pollutant standard index at 242 meaning a very dangerous level, Head of the Dumai Health Service Marjoko Santoso said here Monday.

"We have to be careful with such a condition because the air is containing hazardous substance which could harm the people`s health, and even cause death for those chronically affected," he said.

The air condition in Dumai has been very dangerous for people of all walks of life, he said, adding that it could be worse for those having respiratory problems.

Those inhaling the haze could get blockage of blood cells, he said.

"If this condition continues, there is a possibility tht it will claim one`s live," he said.

The Dumai health service plans to distribute 4,000 facemasks free of charge especially to pedestrians and motorists.

Every community health centers in Dumai will also get 500 facemasks for patients with respiratory problems.

Dumai`s residents have complained about haze entering their houses.

"This morning, the haze is very thick. It gets worse as the haze enters the house and produces smell causing shortness of breath," Diana, a local resident, said.

Bambang, another Dumai inhabitant, said he panicked when his house was filled with haze.

"We panic because even when we don`t go out, the haze disturbs us," he said.

Haze covering Dumai and surrounding areas come from forest and plantation fires.

Most of the forest and plantation fires in Indonesia are man-made. Fire is the cheapest and the only available tool for smallholders to reduce vegetation cover and to prepare and fertilize soils.

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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Tanzania's Road Through Serengeti To Be Unpaved

Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala PlanetArk 4 Jul 11;

Tanzania will build an unpaved road through the Serengeti National Park and game rangers will control traffic to avoid disturbing the annual migration of wildebeest.

"The Serengeti road project has not been abandoned ... we have just revised it. I don't know where all this confusion comes from," Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Ezekiel Maige told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The U.N. world heritage body UNESCO said this week Tanzania would reconsider the planned road which aims to ease transport problems facing poor communities surrounding the park but has been criticized by conservation bodies.

The initial plan to build an asphalt road has now been dropped.

"The project is still there without a shadow of a doubt. But the road will be unpaved, so there will be no tarmac road or highway traversing through the Serengeti National Park," said Maige.

Maige said rangers from the state-run Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) would set up checkpoints and control the flow of traffic through a 53-km section of the road cutting across the wilderness area.

"The road will be closely supervised. TANAPA will put up gates and carry out regular patrols to ensure no harm comes to the wildlife population as a result of vehicles that will be allowed to pass through the road," he said.

"The road passing through the Serengeti will remain under the ownership and control of TANAPA. The ownership of the road will not be transferred to the government's highway roads agency."

Roads outside the national park will be paved, but roads leading to the park and those inside the wildlife sanctuary will not be. Conservationists say the road through the northern edge of the Serengeti would hinder the annual migration of two million wildebeest, one of the world's top wildlife spectacles.

UNESCO has urged the international community to provide support to Tanzania, which relies heavily on tourism, for an alternative route, running south of Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

The World Bank said in March it had offered Tanzania an alternative to stop the Serengeti road project.


The Serengeti member of parliament, Kebwe Stephen Kebwe, backed the road project because it would open up the region.

"The wildlife migration pattern has been there for years ... a 52-kilometre stretch of road, even if unpaved, will not affect anything. The 300,000 residents of Serengeti are eagerly waiting this road," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

He was speaking from Dodoma in central Tanzania where he is attending a parliamentary session expected to approve funding for the project.

"The government has made it clear to MPs that the Serengeti road is a priority project and we expect it to allocate funds in its 2011/12 budget for the construction of the road."

Tanzania has increased infrastructure spending in its 2011/12 budget by 85 percent to 2.78 trillion Tanzanian shillings ($1.73 billion).

Government officials said the Ministry of Works will announce details of the road project in parliament within the next few weeks.

(Editing by James Macharia and Robert Woodward)

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Biofuel deal sparks land debate in Sierra Leone

Rod Mac Johnson AFP Yahoo News 3 Jul 11;

Hailed as the biggest ever investment in Sierra Leone's agriculture, a plan to grow thousands of hectares of sugarcane to produce ethanol has raised fears over food security and land rights.

Swiss group Addax & Oryx announced on June 17 that it had signed a 258 million euro ($368 million) deal with seven European and African development banks to finance the bioenergy project near Makeni in the north of the country.

The hot and rainy west African nation, recovering from a brutal civil war which ended in 2002, has the ideal climate to grow sugarcane, much like that of ethanol powerhouse Brazil which has led the way in using the crop for biofuel.

Sierra Leone's agriculture ministry says the company has leased 57,000 hectares (141,000 acres) of land for a period of 50 years, an area roughly the size of the US city of Chicago.

The project, according to the Geneva-based Addax group, will include "development of a sugarcane plantation, the construction of an ethanol refinery and a biomass power station".

Construction is expected to begin this year, and operations are set to start in 2013, eventually employing up to 2,000 people.

Most of the ethanol -- which can be blended with gasoline and diesel to reduce dependence on harmful fossil fuels -- will be exported to European markets.

The biomass power station is expected to eventually produce a fifth of Sierra Leone's electricity.

While Addax has outlined a raft of measures to boost food security and train farmers, some remain unconvinced and say farmers risk losing fertile land or have been caught up in dodgy land deals.

A study commissioned by Swiss group Bread for All released on June 15 said that "many farmers in project-affected communities have already lost their access to fertile lands."

While Addax provided alternative, often smaller farmland, their promises to plough and harrow the lands materialised too late in 2010.

"This led to very low yield on these fields and local communities are reported to now face growing food insecurity and hunger," it added.

Beat Dietschy, who heads the NGO, said landowners "have given consent to Addax based on verbal promises which have not been realised."

Addax managing director Nikolai Germann told AFP this study was a campaign of misinformation.

"Not only is Addax Bioenergy bound to respect the laws of Sierra Leone, it has also signed agreements with seven European and African development banks which require the company to comply with the highest environmental and social standards," he said.

Addax, which plans to develop a plantation of 10,000 hectares of sugarcane, says large areas of land are available for communities to use as the project uses up less than a third of the total land leased.

It has also set up a programme to help small farmers become self-sufficient, offering over 2,000 farmers a 30-week training course and has ploughed over 2,000 hectares of community fields.

"This is today the largest food production programme in the country," said Germann.

However a group of landowners in Makeni say they are "angry over the deal".

"When Addax visited the area, they promised us schools, boreholes, hospitals because of the chemicals they would be using, and jobs," said Ali Bangura, a representative of the Landowners Committee of Makeni. "But nothing has materialised since 2008."

Germann said the company had taken care not to create unrealistic expectations and considered that "providing education and health services to the general public are the responsibility of the government and not of private investors."

Two clinics have however been set up for local workers and their families.

Sierra Leone's Agriculture Minister Sam Sesay has defended the investment.

"Large scale investors are not the slash-and-burn type. What land they have they can make use of year round and for many years unlike the small holders who move here and there," he told journalists on Monday.

"So taking part of the land to give to large investors is worth doing."

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Huge Rare Earth Deposits Found In Pacific: Report

Kaori Kaneko PlanetArk 4 Jul 11;

Vast deposits of rare earth minerals have been discovered on the seabed of the Pacific Ocean amounting to 1,000 times those on land, media reported on Monday citing a study by Japanese researchers.

The deposits are estimated to amount to 100 billion metric tons, the Nikkei business daily said.

They are believed to lie at a depth of 3,500 to 6,000 meters and cover an area of over 11 million square meters, the reports said.

China, which produces 97 percent of global rare earth supplies, has been tightening trade in the strategic metal, which is used in high-tech electronics, magnets and batteries, causing concerns globally about supply and triggering jumps in prices.

The study by researchers from the University of Tokyo and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology is to be published on Monday in the online edition of the British science magazine Nature Geoscience, the reports said.

Japan's imports of rare earths from China fell 3 percent in May from April, the first month-on-month drop in three months, as the price of the metal surged, Japan's finance ministry said last month.

Demand could pick up later in the year as Japan continues to recover from the March 11 earthquake.

(Editing by Michael Watson)

Japan finds rare earths in Pacific seabed
BBC News 4 Jul 11;

Japanese researchers say they have discovered vast deposits of rare earth minerals, used in many hi-tech appliances, in the seabed.

The geologists estimate that there are about a 100bn tons of the rare elements in the mud of the Pacific Ocean floor.

At present, China produces 97% of the world's rare earth metals.

Analysts say the Pacific discovery could challenge China's dominance, if recovering the minerals from the seabed proves commercially viable.

The British journal Nature Geoscience reported that a team of scientists led by Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo, found the minerals in sea mud at 78 locations.

"The deposits have a heavy concentration of rare earths. Just one square kilometre (0.4 square mile) of deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current global annual consumption," said Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo.

The minerals were found at depths of 3,500 to 6,000 metres (11,500-20,000 ft) below the ocean surface.
Environmental fears

One-third of the sites yielded rich contents of rare earths and the metal yttrium, Mr Kato said.

The deposits are in international waters east and west of Hawaii, and east of Tahiti in French Polynesia.

Mr Kato estimated that rare earths contained in the deposits amounted to 80 to 100 billion tonnes.

The US Geological Survey has estimated that global reserves are just 110 million tonnes, found mainly in China, Russia and other former Soviet countries, and the United States.

China's apparent monopoly of rare earth production enabled it to restrain supply last year during a territorial dispute with Japan.

Japan has since sought new sources of the rare earth minerals.

The Malaysian government is considering whether to allow the construction of an Australian-financed project to mine rare earths, in the face of local opposition focused on the fear of radioactive waste.

The number of firms seeking licences to dig through the Pacific Ocean floor is growing rapidly.

The listed mining company Nautilus has the first licence to mine the floor of the Bismarck and Solomon oceans around Papua New Guinea.

It will be recovering what is called seafloor massive sulphide, for its copper and gold content.

The prospect of deep sea mining for precious metals - and the damage that could do to marine ecosystems - is worrying environmentalists.

Underwater Rare Earths Likely A Pipe Dream
Julie Gordon PlanetArk 7 Jul 11;

An underwater bonanza of rare earth deposits discovered by Japanese scientists poses little threat to miners already developing major rare earth projects on solid ground.

Companies such as Molycorp, Lynas and Avalon Rare Metals may rest assured that developing the offshore bounty could take decades and cost billions, making it little more than a pipe dream, analysts say.

"'Desperado', that's the first word that comes to mind," said Jacob Securities analyst Luisa Moreno. "It makes for some nice headlines, but I don't think it would really be feasible to do this."

The discovery of the vast deposits, located on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, 3,500 to 6,000 meters (11,500 to 20,000 feet) below sea level, marks the latest bid by the Japanese to secure their own supply of rare earths, which are critical ingredients in the production of high tech products.

Prices for rare earth metals have skyrocketed over the last year as China, producer of some 97 percent of the global supply, has repeatedly clamped down on exports.

Dysprosium, which is used to make magnets for hybrid cars and smartphones, has soared to $3,600 a kilogram, up from $300 a kg a year ago, while neodymium, also used in magnets, is hovering at about $450 a kg, up from $45 late last year.

Outside China, Japan is the largest consumer of the group of 17 metals, and the breakneck price jumps have hit it hard. The country's demand for rare earths is expected to shrink by as much as 30 percent in 2011 as companies cut usage, sources told Reuters.

"Obviously they are very frustrated and very desperate for alternatives," Moreno said.

She noted that the Japanese have been experimenting with rare earth recycling, and are also looking to invest in rare earth exploration projects around the world.

"They want to be independent from China," she said. "These materials are really, really critical for their economy."


With some 80 billion to 100 billion tonnes of contained rare earths, the underwater deposits outlined by Japan are certainly larger than any deposits found on solid ground -- but the feasibility of harvesting the metals from sea sludge is less clear.

According to Japanese scientists, it is simply a matter of pumping up the material from the ocean floor and using acid to extract the rare earths from the mud.

But analysts aren't so sure.

They point out that rare earths are notoriously tricky to process on a commercial level, and that development of the deposits, located miles underneath the sea, would be costly.

"The technology you would need, with the pressure and the corrosive factors that are there," said Dahlman Rose analyst Anthony Young. "I think this one falls into the camp of something that is less likely to ever be developed."

Certainly there are mining companies that see value in the ocean floor.

Canada's Nautilus Minerals plans to develop an underwater copper project off the coast of Papua New Guinea, while the diamond industry has been mining off the Namibian shoreline for years.

But with hundreds of companies exploring and developing rare earth deposits on solid ground, analysts say the value of mining the metals underwater remains unclear.

"The cost of undersea mining, necessarily, is going to be high," said Byron Capital Markets analyst Jon Hykawy. "The value of the mined products must therefore be high."

"Rare earths have become pricier, but they are by no means pushing the levels of the prices of really rare materials such as gold."


Chinese state media reported on Wednesday that the country is planning to reform its export of rare earths based in part on World Trade Organization rules, a move that could loosen the supply crunch.

Still, analysts say there is a clear need to develop mines outside China, and the top pick for many is Molycorp, which plans to start up its Mountain Pass mine in California next year, ramping up to output of 40,000 tonnes a year by late 2013.

Rival Lynas, which owns the Mount Weld mine in Australia, plans to start up production by the end of the year, hitting 22,000 tonnes annually in 2013.

Junior miners such as Avalon, Rare Element Resources and Great Western Minerals are all clamoring to be next.

With global demand at about 130,000 tonnes in 2010 and expected to grow rapidly over the next five years, Molycorp and Lynas together can produce about a third of the world's need.

If Japan develops the deep sea deposits, which a government source said could come into production within five to 10 years, it also would be a huge source of supply.

"Just one square kilometer (0.4 square mile) of deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current global annual consumption," said Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo.

Still, rare earth producers and explorers are not fazed by the possibility of future competition from offshore mines.

"It's ridiculous to think you'd be able to dig anything up and haul it up from those kinds of depths," said an executive at a Canadian-listed rare earth company, who declined to speak on the record because of the sensitivity of the issue.

"I'll wait for the giant squid and the prehistoric monsters that will come out of the bottom of the sea first before we see any rare earths."

(Editing by Peter Galloway and Jeffrey Hodgson)

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Warming Oceans Will Melt Glaciers Quicker than Expected

Jennifer Welsh, LiveScience Yahoo News 3 Jul 11;

Ice sheets simmering in warmer ocean waters could melt much quicker than realized. New research is suggesting that as oceans heat up they could erode away the ice sheets much faster than warmer air alone, and this interaction needs to be accounted for in climate change models.

"Ocean warming is very important compared to atmospheric warming, because water has a much larger heat capacity than air," study researcher Jianjun Yin, of the University of Arizona, said in a statement. "If you put an ice cube in a warm room, it will melt in several hours. But if you put an ice cube in a cup of warm water, it will disappear in just minutes."

The researchers studied 19 state-of-the-art climate models and saw that subsurface ocean warming could accelerate ice-sheet melting over the next century, resulting in greater sea level rise that could exceed 3 feet (1 meter). Glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt at different rates, though. [In Photos: Glaciers Before and After]

Different strokes for different coasts

Given a mid-level increase in greenhouse gases, the ocean layer about 650 to 1,650 feet (200 to 500 meters) below the surface would warm, on average, about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) by 2100, the researchers found.

The actual warming in different regions could differ significantly, though. They found that temperatures of subsurface oceans along the Greenland coast could increase as much as 3.6 F (2 C) by 2100, but along Antarctica would warm less, only 0.9 F (0.5 C).

"No one has noticed this discrepancy before — that the subsurface oceans surrounding Greenland and Antarctica warm very differently," Yin said. The discrepancy is caused by different currents in the ocean: The Gulf Stream will send warmer waters toward Greenland, while the Antarctic Circumpolar Current blocks some of the warmer waters from reaching Antarctica.

Warmer waters = melting ice

This drastic increase in ocean warming will have a substantial impact on how quickly the polar ice sheets melt, as warmer waters will erode away the ice sheets below the surface. This is on top of increased melting from warmer air in the region. As the glaciers' underwater support structures melt, they lose chunks of ice, which become icebergs.

"This does mean that both Greenland and Antarctica are probably going melt faster than the scientific community previously thought," study researcher Jonathan Overpeck, also of the University of Arizona, said in a statement. "We could have sea level rise by the end of this century of around 1 meter [more than 3 feet] and a good deal more in succeeding centuries."

Previous estimates had projected sea levels to rise by anywhere between 1.5 and 6.5 feet (0.56 and 2 m), and in 2011 a study by Eric Rignot, of the University of California at Irvine, and others projected that sea level rise would reach 12.6 inches (32 centimeters) by 2050 alone. Overpeck and Yin's study adds to the evidence that sea level rise by the end of the century will be near the high end of these projects.

The study was published today (July 3) in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Warming ocean could melt ice faster than thought
Randolph E. Schmid AP Yahoo News 3 Jul 11;

WASHINGTON (AP) — Warming air from climate change isn't the only thing that will speed ice melting near the poles — so will the warming water beneath the ice, a new study points out.

Increased melting of ice in Greenland and parts of Antarctica has been reported as a consequence of global warming, potentially raising sea levels. But little attention has been paid to the impact of warmer water beneath the ice.

Now, Jianjun Yin of the University of Arizona and colleagues report the warming water could mean polar ice melting faster than had been expected. Their report was published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

While melting floating ice won't raise sea level, ice flowing into the sea from glaciers often reaches the bottom, and grounded ice melted by warm water around it can produce added water to the sea.

"Ocean warming is very important compared to atmospheric warming because water has a much larger heat capacity than air," Yin explained. "If you put an ice cube in a warm room, it will melt in several hours. But if you put an ice cube in a cup of warm water, it will disappear in just minutes."

In addition, Yin explained, if floating ice along the coastal areas melts it will allow the flow of glaciers to accelerate, bringing more ice into the seas.

"This mean that both Greenland and Antarctica are probably going to melt faster than the scientific community previously thought," co-author Jonathan T. Overpeck said in a statement.

Overpeck, co-director of the University of Arizona's Institute of the Environment, said: "This paper adds to the evidence that we could have sea level rise by the end of this century of around 1 meter and a good deal more in succeeding centuries."

The subsurface ocean along the Greenland coast could warm as much as 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 Celsius) by 2100, the researchers reported. The warming along the coast of Antarctica would be somewhat less, they calculated, at 0.9 degree F (0.5 C).

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