Friday, September 16, 2011

Mining firms draft ‘scorecard’ on social programs

Mining firms draft ‘scorecard’ on social programs
By: Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
September 16, 2011

Mining companies are crafting a “Mining Scorecard” on social and environmental programs in partnership with nongovernment organizations and civil society groups, officials said toward the end of the Mining Philippines 2011 Conference and Exhibition on Thursday night.

Chamber of Mines of the Philippines president Benjamin Philip G. Romualdez, Rafael C. Lopa, executive director of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), and Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, vice-chair and CEO of environmental protection group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Philippines, all said there should be a set of parameters to measure the benefits of mining.

Romualdez acknowledged that companies need to communicate how mining mineral resources benefit the host communities and the economy in general.
He said that the Chamber of Mines will hold talks with PBSP and WWF Philippines to formulate the so-called scorecard.

“There has to be a way to show what the mining industry is doing to improve the lives of the people in the communities where they are situated,” Lopa said.

He pointed out that the positive contributions of mining companies in areas where they set up shop are not always known.

The PBSP is the largest corporate-led, non-profit social development foundation in the Philippines.

At the same time, mining companies vowed to step up their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs to be even more responsive to the host communities of their projects.

The country’s five holders of financial and technical assistance agreements (FTAAs)— Oceana Gold Phils., Agusan Petroleum, FCF Minerals, Altamina Exploration and Resources, Inc. and Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI)—all committed to pour in social investments to improve the lives of the people who depend on mining.

“This is a commitment that all mining companies need to honor,” said Jose P. Leviste, Jr., president of OceanaGold, during the conference.

He said that “serious” mining companies, including OceanaGold, have been spending and will continue to spend millions, not only in their host communities and local governments but for other beneficiaries as well.

OceanaGold holds an agreement with the Philippine government to develop Didipio, a copper- and gold-rich project in Nueva Vizcaya.

SMI, contractor of the country’s single biggest investment in mining, has invested as much as P135 million in various CSR programs and as much as P2.5 billion in the Mindanao economy, according to SMI general manager for operations and external relations Mark Williams.

The money, the said, went to employment, annual wages, purchase of goods and services, payment of taxes to the government, power and fuel charges, and community partnerships, sponsorships and donations.

SMI, Williams said, has also granted financial support for the education of around 19,000 elementary, high school, and college students in the Tampakan area of South Cotabato.
The Tampakan project straddles the municipalities of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Kiblawan in Davao del Sur, and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat.

A recent resource estimate showed that the area has a 2.4 billion metric ton deposit, containing 13.5 million tons of copper and 15.8 million ounces of gold at a 0.3 percent cut-off grade.

“If approved, the mine would be the largest in the Philippines and among the largest copper mines in the world. It would generate significant economic benefits that would stimulate the local, regional and national economies of the Philippines,” Williams said.