December 14, 2010

Double Hat-trick for Alcoa's Marrinup Nursery

Alcoa of Australia’s Marrinup Nursery has marked its 30th year of operations with three prestigious awards for outstanding efforts in propagation, training and community relations.

The 2011 Nursery & Garden Industry Awards recognise and reward excellence within the nursery and garden industry and acknowledge industry leaders as they strive to achieve best business practice.

For the second consecutive year, under the Award’s Western Australian division, Alcoa won three awards. This year the Company received: ‘Best Propagation Nursery’, the ‘Community Award’ and the ‘Training Award’.
Alcoa Marrinup Nursery Manager Dr Ian Colquhoun said the 12-strong team was ecstatic with the award wins, which he attributed to their dedication to high standards and passion for excellent performance.

“We’re focused on continual improvement right across the board and always seek feedback and review our performance to maintain high standards,” he said.

Marrinup Nursery, located near Dwellingup in Western Australia, provides seeds and plants for the rehabilitation of Alcoa’s bauxite mines. Alcoa was the first mining company in the world to achieve 100 per cent plant species richness in its rehabilitated mine site areas of the WA jarrah forest.

Established in 1980  Marrinup Nursery annually produces more than 200,000 recalcitrant plants (those that struggle to establish in restored mined areas from seed and topsoil), 60,000 eucalypts, almost 25,000 seedlings (of which 20,000 are distributed to community groups and neighbours) and more than six tonnes of seed mixes.

“In our thirty years of operation we’ve produced more than thirty-three million plants, one million recalcitrant plant tissue cultures and around fifty tonnes of seed to restore more than six and a half thousand hectares of Jarrah Forest,” Dr Colquhoun said.

“It’s uplifting to ensure the biodiversity returns to pre-mining conditions and we’re proud that monitoring shows our rehabilitated mined areas have more local plant species than the unmined forest.”

Nursery & Garden Industry Australia CEO, Robert Prince, said judges were very impressed by the nursery, its commitment to best practice and its excellent professional development.

“We congratulate Marrinup Nursery for its marvellous achievement in winning three awards,” he said.

“These operations are exemplary, with impressive use of technology, and the commitment to their staff and the community is truly heartening.

“The average length of service for their employees is an incredible eighteen years and that is testament to their focus on, and desire to upskill, their employees.”

Marrinup Nursery has implemented two new community-related initiatives in the past 12 months. It has partnered with Fairbridge, a major youth charity in Western Australia, to train young Indigenous people in horticulture and conservation, and established a relationship with the Department of Corrective Services at Karnet Prision Farm, near Alcoa’s Huntly Mine. Through this partnership Alcoa has assisted in the training of Indigenous inmates to establish a large seed orchard.

The latter innovation is potentially a commercial venture on the prison property, with Marrinup Nursery buying seed produced by the inmates, thereby generating an income for the prison.

“We’re spreading biodiversity knowledge for the good of the community,” Dr Colquhoun said, “and we believe it’s a win-win situation for all parties.”

Alcoa's three wins put the Company in the running for the national Nursery & Garden Industry Awards, which will be presented in April 2011.

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About Marrinup Nursery
Marrinup Nursery is located 5 kilometres from Dwellingup and has been operating since 1980.  Today, it provides seeds and plants for the rehabilitation of mined areas at Alcoa’s Huntly and Willowdale mines.

Marrinup Nursery, south of Perth, includes a state-of-the-art tissue culture laboratory which has been successful in restoring a high diversity of plant species for mine site rehabilitation - no other mining company in the world has comparable facilities.

Tissue culture is essentially growing plant shoots in a sterile, controlled, environment usually in sealed jars.  The plant shoots are grown on media which contains nutrients for plant growth; minerals, amino acids, vitamins, hormones, sugar and water – all set in a jelly called agar. Every four weeks the plant material is divided and placed into fresh agar and within a few months thousands of plants can be produced.

Since 1994, the one million tissue cultured plants have gone into over 6,537 hectares of mine rehabilitation at Alcoa’s Huntly Mine near Dwellingup and the Willowdale Mine near Wagerup.

About the 2011 Nursery & Garden Industry Awards -
WA Division

Eligible businesses in the ‘Best Propagation Nursery Award’ are producers of propagation plugs and tube stock that are sold to production nurseries.

The ‘Community Award’ recognises businesses who demonstrate outstanding commitment to their local community through work conducted outside of the day-to-day operations of the businesses.

The ‘Training Award’ recognises businesses who demonstrate an outstanding approach and commitment to staff training.

Media contacts:

Nursery & Garden Industry Australia: Jackie Smiles (at Crossman Communications) 02 9361 6099

Alcoa: Bernadette Hiles 08 9530 2359