"These are good models of how private sector investments can develop a thriving and sustainable mining ecosystem."
The Spanish word “Ayuda,” a word that fits well with the spirit of “bayanihan” as a collective effort of society, was widely adopted as a sort of brand for giving aid to hard-hit families whose livelihoods were abruptly disrupted or even lost when the economy took a nosedive due to the long, on-and-off lockdowns. As government mobilization proved slow and inadequate, the private sector was able to greatly fill in the distribution gaps with its nimble problem solving and efficient culture, and of course, fast, and substantial funding capacity.
This crisis has had a galvanizing effect on the biggest business groups in the country coming together in an unprecedented private business-led movement to help the country survive and rebound from this health and economic disaster.
An important sector that should be recognized is the mining industry that responded to the government’s call for help and gave “ayuda” directly to 1.1 million families and about 300,000 front liners in the host and neighboring communities of mining projects nationwide. These are remote areas of the country and should be seen as good models of how private sector investments can develop a thriving and sustainable mining ecosystem from practically nothing.
Even more interventions in food security, education, and livelihood are already looking beyond the pandemic and are being implemented by the large scale mining companies under the holistic approach and discipline of the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) principles. This is a globally proven framework that integrates stakeholder interests in sustainable mining practices.
To site some on the ground ayudas, about 19,000 families in Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino received food supplies, medicines, and personal protection equipment from OceanaGold Phils. Inc. though their copper-gold project has not been operating since July 2019 pending renewal of government contract. FCF Minerals Corp. also gave food supplies to 10,500 households.
In Benguet province, Philex Mining Corp. (PMC) augmented the government’s Social Amelioration Program for medicines in several barangays and gave cash support to families in Barangay Camp 3 in Tuba through subsidiary Silangan Mindanao Mining Co., Inc. which also converted its stockyard to temporary isolation facilities for Placer, Surigao del Norte.
Also in Benguet, Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp. (LCMC) and Far Southeast Gold Resources, Inc. opened quarantine facilities for Casubigan camp with its own hospital staff adequately equipped with PPEs and medical supplies. The company implemented mass testing and isolation protocols for those found positive. This included free meals.
In Masbate, Filminera Resources Corp. and PhilGold Processing and Refining Corp. kept the Christmas spirit alive with food distribution for 400 families in Albay, 100 of which are indigenous people hardest hit by typhoon Rolly and Ulysses. In the aftermath of the 6.6-magnitude earthquake in Masbate, P5 million was donated by the company to rebuild homes and for the relief goods of victims.
In Dinagat Island, Surigao del Norte, a fully equipped, 150-bed quarantine facility was funded by the Cagdiano Mining Corp (CMC), a subsidiary of Nickel Asia Corp (NAC) in cooperation with the local government’s “Katre-Karpintero” program. NAC together with subsidiaries CMC, Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC), and Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp (THPAL) donated P18 million to the Philippine Red Cross for the establishment of a Molecular Testing Laboratory for COVID-19 in Surigao del Norte. TMC also donated about 5,000 rapid antibody test (RAT) kits while THPAL provided Calver Town with RATs, and an iChroma II antigen device. THPAL also distributed 489 relief goods to IP families in cooperation with the Army 30th Infantry Battalion.
Mining companies gave a total of 92,000 sacks of rice to communities all over the country. P30 million worth of rice was donated by Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. (RTNMC) and Coral Bay Nickel Corp. (CBNC). The Platinum Group Metals Corp (PGMC) has allocated P12 million for its Food Security Project which will provide food and livelihood for partner communities.
In Kiblawan, Davao del Sur, 30 barangays in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur received P25,000 “seed money” for development initiatives from the Sagittarius Mines Inc. The company has been supporting the centuries-old Blaan tribal domains through humanitarian and education interventions despite not operating since 1995 because of regulatory delays which hopefully will be resolved soon.
Already the members of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines are looking beyond this crisis and are poised to become one of the country’s most important economic drivers that will catalyze long-term prosperity. With the global shift to digital technologies, all electronic devices that we will need require the mineral resources that we happen to have abundance and just waiting to be responsibly harnessed. If the remaining ban on open pit mining is lifted, which many experts say, and I agree, was more ideological and not science based, the right investments will come in to spark the rebirth of a vibrant and sustainable mineral development industry benefiting millions of stakeholders.