December 19 will go down in history as a “watershed moment” for the mining industry, as this was the day that gave witness to the signing of two very important documents: one, between the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) and the Mining Association of Canada (MAC); and, the other, between the COMP and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
A week after then-Davao Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte won the Presidency in the 2016 national elections, our Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan and I met him in Davao where, among other things, he iterated his challenge to the mining industry to adhere to strict international standards, particularly that of Australia and Canada.
Thus, Philex Mining Corporation embarked on this crusade to search for what these other strict international standards were, as a response to President Duterte’s challenge.
Not that Philex was inadequate in this regard. On the contrary, Philex had already clearly established itself as a responsible mining company. It already had its Integrated Management System (IMS) certification, which incorporated both ISO 14001:2004 on environmental management system and OHSAS 18001:2007 for occupational health and safety management, way before the DENR requirement for ISO certification.
Its Silangan Mindanao mining project already got ISO 14001: 2004 certification even before it commenced actual mining operations.
Philex had also garnered numerous awards in corporate governance and leadership here and abroad, like the ASEAN Good Governance Award where it was #1 in the Philippines, including the Philippine Stock Exchange Bell Awards where it has consistently been part of the country’s Top 50 publicly-listed corporations (PLCs) – one of the few, if not the only, mining companies to have achieved such feat.
Despite all these, however, Philex wanted to seek out other strict standards to comply with, to leave no stone unturned (no pun intended) where excellence in mining was concerned.
Philex came across the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) initiative of the Mining Association of Canada which the latter launched in 2004. It was mandatory for all MAC members to their respective Canadian operations, but many of them also applied it to their international projects.
But because TSM can only be adopted as a standard by a national mining association such as the COMP – as was the case in Finland, Argentina, and Botswana – Philex President and CEO Euls Austin Jr. proposed it to the then-COMP Board of Directors. The COMP Board approved it, and the movement towards its adoption started and snowballed.
On December 19, the COMP under its new Chairman, Nickel Asia Corporation President and CEO Jerry Brimo, signed the mutual cooperation and licensing agreement with the MAC as represented by its President and CEO Pierre Gratton who, together with MAC VP Ben Chalmers, flew all the way to Manila from Canada not just to sign the agreement but to also conduct a two-day training to select representatives from COMP member companies on the TSM.
The signing was also witnessed by my good friend, the Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines, His Excellency John Holmes. In Canada, as I have seen for myself, mining, tourism and agriculture are not mutually exclusive. They thrive together. In fact, it was mining that developed Canada into a powerhouse economy.
If the Canadians and the Australians can do it, then so can we.
In the same breath last November, at the Annual National Mine Safety and Environment Conference in Baguio City, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu delivered a keynote speech that challenged the mining industry to be a greater contributor to national development, to “go beyond responsible mining”. In response, the COMP has issued this manifesto called the Baguio Declaration which is its commitment to responsible minerals development and, thus, national development in the country.
Thus, on the same day as the TSM agreement signing, representatives of COMP member companies came forward and signed the Baguio Declaration which consists of five main elements of responsible minerals development: that of being people-oriented; protecting and enhancing the environment; respecting the rights and welfare of indigenous peoples; contributing its fair share to the national economy; and of being efficient, competitive, compliant with international standards.
Make no mistake about it, though. Many COMP members, like Philex Mining, have already incorporated these key principles into their operations since way back.
In fact, just recently, both Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation and Oceana Gold (Philippines) Inc. won the 1st ASEAN Mineral Awards, once again proving that the Philippines is tops in mineral development.
What the Baguio Declaration does is formalize these key principles into a manifesto and institutionalize them in the Chamber.
With these two documents the COMP is well on the right track towards going beyond responsible mining and policing its ranks. Mining is a serious and scientific business, and should be treated with the level of seriousness and science that it deserves. Given the opportunity, it can still be a driver in economic development that contributes substantially towards nation-building under the Duterte administration.
On that very positive note, I greet one and all a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!