Ph large-scale mines fight to keep jobs amid pandemic

by Philippine Resources - August 23, 2021

Photo Credit: Carmen Copper - With its health and safety protocols already in place, Carmen Copper Corporations was able to maintain full operations throughout 2020.

While millions of jobs were lost last year across most sectors following the lockdowns put in place to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, employment in the Philippine mining industry remains largely unaffected.  This is due mainly to the resilience of the minerals development sector and the efforts of mining firms to keep their workers employed.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the country’s unemployment rate was 8.7% in April 2021, an improvement from the 10.4% posted at the end of 2020 – the highest in 15 years.  In terms of magnitude, the April figures translate to a total of 4.14 million unemployed individuals who are 15 years old and above.

The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) estimates the Philippines’ total job losses at 2.1 million in 2020, around 500,000 of which were in construction and another 100,000 in manufacturing, with the steepest decline in employment in the services sector reliant on tourism.  ADB pegs the job losses north of 500,000 in wholesale and retail; 265,000 in accommodation and food; and a drop of about 100,000 jobs in transport, public administration, and other services.

Meanwhile, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau says the mining and quarrying sectors even posted a slight increase in employment numbers, from 182,000 in 2019 to 184,000 in 2020.  In April 2021, however, employment in mining and quarrying dropped by 7,000, which can be attributed to the temporary closure of some operations due to local government directives. Nevertheless, this figure is expected to improve particularly in the large-scale metallic sector with the resumption of OceanaGold Phils. Inc.’s Didipio Project operations soon following the renewal of its mining agreement with the Philippine government.

Quick response

Members of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) – composed primarily of the country’s largest metallic mines –  responded early to the pandemic, enabling them to effectively mitigate the risks of infection within and around their mines.  In Carmen Copper Corporation’s (CCC) mine in Toledo City, Cebu, for instance, the company secured its employees’ livelihood by assuring continued salaries, providing assistance to protect their health, and setting up precautionary measures to reduce infection risks. CCC instituted flexible work arrangements, such as work-from-home options for non-critical employees and accommodations for workers directly involved in the mine and mill operations. The company also provided free service buses for commuting personnel as public transportation was halted during the lockdowns.

Health and safety measures were strictly implemented in the workplace such as social distancing and mandatory wearing of personal protective equipment. CCC also conducted regular disinfection and housekeeping of work areas and facilities.

CCC followed the “Trace, Test and Treat” strategy in managing the Covid-19 pandemic. The company’s emergency responders and medical teams meticulously traced contacts people exposed to persons positive with Covid-19 and provided regular testing. It also established quarantine areas inside the mine site and provided nutritious meals, vitamins and supplements for workers who have been exposed to positive patients.


CCC’s efforts to secure jobs and keep employees safe are being replicated by COMP member-firms across the country.  These efforts have not gone unnoticed by their workforce. 

“During the onset of the pandemic, we did not report for work for 15 days,” recalls Jordan Zamuco, a company driver at Philex Mining Corp.’s Padcal Operations in Tuba, Benguet.  “We were on on-call duty since there were company volunteer programs where our assistance to transport donations to our host and neighboring communities were needed. After 15 days, we were back on track; our work has been continuous since. There were instances when the skeletal workforce arrangement was necessary in our department but we were well compensated. We received our daily salary. What I am most thankful for are the continued benefits from the company that we received without delay.”

“I am grateful to this company for continuing to provide benefits for us employees,” says Mine Operations Group manager Benedict Gapongli.  “Despite this situation we are all facing, the company even gave us bonuses and salary increases.”

None of Philex Padcal Mine’s nearly 1,900 employees – majority of whom are from the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), which posted a 25% unemployment rate at the start of the pandemic – were separated since the start of the pandemic.  Same with the company’s corporate offices in Mandaluyong, where some 80 employees are posted.

New Philex Mining Corp. (PMC) HR Senior Supervisor Luzbele Roxas, hired during the pandemic.  PMC is part of the MVP Group of Companies.

“In Philex, I can feel how agile the company is in adapting to the pandemic,” shares Human Resources senior supervisor Luzbele Roxas.  “The work-from-home setup and laptop subsidy keep me safe and make me productive at the same time. One of my key functions in HR is recruitment. I’m well equipped to handle challenges in this function with the aid of digital solutions. Moreover, with De Los Santos Medical Center, Cardinal Santos Medical Center, and other MVP partner medical institutions on my speed dial, I can confidently take care of our existing and prospective employees on their health needs. The work environment here in Philex is family oriented.  Perhaps that’s the reason why we have many long-tenured employees.”

“My work during this pandemic period has been most rewarding,” says Keith Conrad Fabros, a shop clerk and tool keeper at Padcal’s Mobile Equipment Department. “I may have additional workload, but I am quite able to cope with it. I am thankful that despite this pandemic, I still have a steady job and my family and I are healthy. The company provides free medical benefits to employees, such as the random swab tests. This makes us and our families protected from the virus.”

“There are so many things to be thankful about being part of this wonderful company, of course with the directives and supervision of our beloved president, Mr. Eules Austin,” says Irish Distor of Philex Mining Corp.’s Information Technology Department. “Thank you very much, Sir! Mabuhay po kayo!”

“During these difficult times a lot of people lost their jobs. That is why I am most thankful to Philex for ensuring that I keep my job and bring food on the table, and for helping keep our families safe,” says Irish Distor from Philex’s Corporate Office. “We were given the tools we need to do our jobs and the flexibility to work from home. Philex  also showed us how much they care for their employees when we were given flu and Covid-19 vaccines.”


Benguet Corporation (BC), for its part, managed to secure the jobs of 1,433 employees in the company’s head office and various projects. The company’s gold operation in Itogon, Benguet managed to remain open even with the drastic decrease in the attendance of contract miners by 56%. Despite lower production, BC retained its 475 employees in its Baguio Gold Operation and is currently hiring for newly vacant positions.

“As the coronavirus continues to rapidly spread across the world, it is causing a considerable degree of anxiety, fear, and concern to all,” says Mark Gallo, Human Resources assistant at BC’s head office.  “Having this in mind, the company has safeguarded the welfare of its employees by providing flexible working hours, shuttle services, regular RT PCR screening tests, vaccines, quarantine facilities, and other safety essentials to protect them from the infection. We are lucky.”

The company’s subsidiary, BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc (BNMI) greatly contributed to the increase of employment in Sta. Cruz, Zambales when it resumed mining last year. Since October 2020, BNMI contracted additional 704 employees for it nickel mining operation.

“Hearing news of unemployment in the country and closing down of many businesses in different industries, makes me realize to be grateful that I still have a secured job I can count on during these trying times to provide for my family,” Gallo adds.

Roy Cale and 200 of his fellow workers and contractors at Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) were able to keep their jobs despite the pandemic.  With his job secured, he and his nine teammates in the firm’s Mine Environmental Protection and Enhancement Team aim to produce up to 120,000 seedlings that SMI will then grow, propagate, plant, or distribute to community members in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

Roy Cale is one of the nine contractual workers under the Mine Environmental Protection and Enhancement Team (MEPE) of Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI).  As a nursery aide, he brings to life various seedlings that SMI will then grow, propagate, plant or distribute to community members.  This year, Cale and his other teammates aim to produce up to 120,000 seedlings of various tree species.

Cale is a resident of Barangay Tablu in Tampakan, South Cotabato. He joined the SMI MEPE Team in 2017 and has since helped produce more than half a million seedlings.

During the onset of COVID-19 pandemic last year, Cale was thankful that his workspace is in the great outdoors, making him feel safe from possible workplace infection. Cale was also thankful that, despite job losses that other industries suffered due to lockdowns and economic downturns, SMI immediately activated its crisis management and business continuity plans that allowed him to keep his job. Some 200 other SMI staff and contractors were able to keep their jobs as well.


The pandemic served as an opportunity for Berong Nickel Corporation (BNC) in Quezon, Palawan to assuage its employees that no challenge is too difficult if they focus on their work and on showing their “malasakit” – or concern – for both the company and each other.

“Initially we were afraid that we will lose our jobs like what happened in other companies, Jay Dionisio, an artist at BNC’s Safety Department. “We were fetched from our homes by our company and made to stay in the mine to protect us from the virus.  This arrangement allowed us to work unhampered, thus ensuring our income kept coming and our families won’t go hungry.”

(Clockwise from top left) Rolando Sajot, Jaypee dela Cruz, Florita Mutas, and Jay Dionisio all showed “malasakit” for Berong Nickel Corp. and fellow employees, which helped the company to overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Rolando Sajot, BNC Safety superintendent, says the strict enforcement of Health Protocols in the mine enabled the company to keep all its 778 employees safe.  “We managed to maintain our Safety Performance Indicator at ‘0’ – meaning there were no recorded accidents from 2019 to December 2020,” he points out.  “We posted 4 million man-hours of no lost time accident, and 25 million man-hours of no fatality since 2007.”

“Our efforts to care for and protect the forest and seas continued amid the pandemic,” says BNC Mine Environmental Protection and Enhancement officer Jaypee dela Cruz.  “One of the most important elements of our reforestation initiatives is our Nursery operations, manned by people like Mrs. Florita Mutas who, at 43, still sends seven of her children to school.”

“With God’s grace, we were able to continue our work here, which gave me the means to feed and provide for all the needs of my children,” Mutas relates.

Happy and Contented

While other companies have shut down their businesses due to the pandemic, exploration and community development work in and around TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc.’s (TVIRD) Balabag Project in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur has not stopped, says Julito Bate, a carpenter and father of seven children.  “TVIRD values its workers, especially those who are honest in doing their work.”

Marvin Edal, a former illegal small-scale miner in this town, says working with TVIRD is his “dream come true”.  A member of the Subanen tribe, Edal was able to fulfill his wish of serving his community, especially in times of calamity and disaster, as part of the company’s exploration team.  On top of that, he now earns a lot more compared to the meager P20 he received per day in his old back-breaking job of carrying sacks of gold ore to his boss’ makeshift processing plant. 

The pandemic has not prevented him from helping his townmates and those in neighboring villages owing to the company’s continued operations.  “My only wish is for TVIRD to start its mining operations soon so we can further spread the benefits of responsible mining,” he says.

The chief’s grandson. Despite his lineage, Marvin Edal is described as “warm, approachable and hard-working – one of the best employees of TVIRD’s Community Relations group.”  Photo shows Marvin (in light blue) assisting his grandfather, Timuay Casiano Edal, in managing administrative duties for the Subanen tribe.

Edal’s sentiment is shared by Dionel Barut, an Administration assistant and in-charge of TVIRD’s kitchen staff, as well as the purchase of supplies for the kitchen, mess hall, and accommodation facilities in Balabag.  “I like working here because the company takes good care of its employees,” he relates.  “Besides the good pay, much importance is given to our health and safety.”

Barut worked once in a 5-star hotel at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig but left and joined TVIRD in 2020.  He has no plans of leaving anytime soon.  “We are happy and contented here, especially whenever we see our fellow workers delighted with the food we serve – and then receive ‘thank-yous’ from them. Makes one forget there is a pandemic wreaking havoc all around,” he adds.

Manpower reduction never an option

Being in an export-oriented industry, Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC) continued to operate albeit in a limited capacity and with due observance of the regulations set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases or IATF.  Manpower reduction was never an option for the company. Instead, LCMC opted to manage the employees’ earned leave credits not merely as a cost control measure, but more so to conform with the IATF protocols for companies allowed to operate and to help stem the spread of the virus in the work place.

“The good thing here is that even with the Covid-19 pandemic, Lepanto didn’t stop operating,” says Mauricio Bangngayon, a Mine Shift Boss at LCMC’s Mankayan, Benguet mine.  A high school undergraduate, Bangngayon left his village in Tanudan, Kalinga 10 years ago and found a job here, initially as a mucker, then as an LHD operator 3 years later, until he was promoted to his current post. 

“The company continues to fight, and I am still here,” he stresses.  “The thing I like most is that I am with my family here.  My wife doesn’t need to work abroad because I can provide them a decent living because of my job.”

Mauricio Bangngayon (center), flanked by the Uyod brothers Abelard (left) and Samel (right) are thankful that their company, Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co., continues to fight to keep their jobs at the firm’s Mine Division in Mankayan, Benguet.

The company put the welfare of its employees above anything else by providing them with the necessary personal protective equipment, vitamin C especially for the frontliners, shuttle services to ferry the employees to work and back home, and disinfectants for offices, to name a few.

Lepanto also conducted massive testing for all the mine site employees. Those who tested positive were sent to quarantine facilities with free meals. The Lepanto Hospital continues to give free medical services to all the Lepanto employees and dependents. With Lepanto’s good relationship with the Mankayan Local Government Unit, getting its employees vaccinated was never a problem.

Like Bangngayon, Abelard and Samel Uyod, both from Tadian, Mt. Province, found their luck in Lepanto, Mine Division.  Both of them are third generation employees, as their father and grandfather used to work for the company as lead miners.  The Uyod brothers are grateful for the opportunities given to them my LCMC even with their lack of college degrees. 

Abelard started working as a security guard in 2001 and eventually became a security officer, because of his dedication and excellent performance being an underground patrol.

“My being able to continue working here despite the pandemic is really a great help,” Abelard relates.  “My children are still studying – two of them are now in college – and we need to fund their tuition fees.  We don’t know any other income source that’s why my brother and I are so fortunate that we’re still here.”

His older brother Samel started as a mucker in 2004, then became a lead miner, and was promoted to LHD operator, until he bagged the senior surface safety inspector position in 2010. He says: “Our families’ primary source of livelihood – our salaries – wasn’t affected that’s why our standard of living remains steady even with Covid-19 wreaking havoc everywhere.  We are able to withstand the pandemic because we still have our jobs and for that we are most thankful.”

Solidarity in the time of Covid-19

Back in Toledo City, Carmen Copper Corporation (CCC) saw recently the signing of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between management and workers.  Of CCC’s 2,365 employees, 1,916 or 81% are rank-and-file employees.

President and CEO Roy Deveraturda says the signing is a symbol of solidarity, regardless if you’re a union member, the management, a service provider, or contractor.  A key factor to the swift and peaceful CBA signing is the professionalism shown by the officers of the union, whom he described as "men of integrity and purpose."

Carmen Copper Corp. President and CEO Roy Deveraturda (right) shares a light moment with labor union president Herbert Cabaluna during the signing of the new CBA between the firm and its employees.

"They know that they also have responsibility because I believe they understand that before the wage earners can receive their share of the fruits of their labor, the wage giver must have the capability to give it to them. I salute the honesty, dedication and professionalism of the union members toward the common good," Deveraturda says.

After the first three years, another negotiation will be made to deliberate on the next salary increase for the last two years of the CBA, he adds. “In a scenario wherein the general situation, brought about by the current pandemic, talks of furlough, layoffs and retrenchments from other companies, CCC is talking about salary increases and enhancing the welfare of its employees.".

Union president Herbert Cabaluna, who described the CBA signing as a "very important" development, agrees: "Despite the pandemic and its effect to the economy, our CBA managed to increase and improve economic benefits like wages, benefits, allowances, bonus and programs. Aside from economic benefits, the CBA also institutionalized job security and protection of workers' rights."

As CCC continues to strive for its goals amid the pandemic, Deveraturda urged all employees to do what they can for the company: "We must all love the company, show your commitment, cooperation and of course, your competence in the performance of your assigned tasks."


Article Courtesy of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines

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Marcelle P. Villegas - March 17, 2021

The Aftermath of the Carmen Copper Mine Landslide

After the tragic landslide that occurred at the open pit’s north wall at around 4:15 p.m. on Monday, 21 Dec. 2020,  Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) 7 ordered the immediate suspension of the mine operations in Carmen Copper Corporation (CCC). According to MGB’s report last 22 Dec. 2020 on their official website, they stated “Initial investigations revealed there was no mining activity in the area on that day.” [1] On that day, landslide debris fell on the water at the pit bottom. This has an elevation of 41m above sea level. The landslide created a tsunami-like wave that reached an elevation of 105m in the southern portion of the pit where the workers were located. On 22 Dec. 2020, four fatalities were recorded along with six missing. [1] Further on, an assessment of the area was conducted by Director Pacquito Melicor Jr. (DENR Central Visayas Regional Executive Director), Director Armando Malicse (MGB 7 Regional Director), MGB Region 7 team, and Mine Safety, Environment and Social Development Division. CCC and Toledo City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management team continued their search and retrieval operations on a limited scale due to unstable condition. MGB 7 technical personnel continues its on-site inspection and investigation in accordance with R.A. 7942 (Philippine Mining Act of 1995) and the DENR Administrative Order Nos. 2010-21 (Consolidated IRR of RA 7942) and 2000-98 (Mine Safety and Health Standards). [1] A list of names of workers who died was given by CCC to the Toledo Police Station Chief, Lt. Col. Junnel Caadlawon. The second list contains the names of those who are still missing. [2] Those who died from the landslide are the following: Junil S. Lagola, age 44, from Barangay Don Andres Soriano, leadman Ernesto G. Caspe, age 54, from Dasmamac, Lutopan, checker Juan M. Tapang, age 44, from Don Andres Soriano Village, heavy equipment operator Dionisio Labang, from barangay Uling, Naga, backhoe operator/Anseca Contractor Those who are still missing are the following: Jose B. Carpentero, age 31, from Barangay Biga, heavy equipment operator from Mine Services Department Jonwel S. Herediano, age 33, from Barangay Don Andres Soriano, pump operator Simeon B. Laconas, age 33, from Barangay Biga, leadman - mine services department John Paul L. Resuelo, age 27, from Barangay Biga, heavy equipment operator Renante F. Sepada, age 35, from Barangay Bagakay, pump operator Alfred C. Tautho, age 33, from Barangay Mainggit, welder Carmen Copper Corp. (CCC) expressed their support and commitment to provide free education until college and allowances to all the children of its employees who died or are still missing after the tragedy last December. Based on a press statement of the company last 27 Dec. 2020, they have provided various forms of financial and other assistance to the immediate families of its deceased workers. [3] Additionally, CCC also offered employment opportunities for the victims’ next of kin, spouse and children. “CCC has given the same attention to the immediate family of the missing CCC employees and will afford them of the same commitments CCC provided to the family of the deceased,” according to the company’s statement. CCC also extended support to the family of the contractor who was among the victims. [3] On 8 Feb. 2021, Toledo City Mayor, Hon. Marjorie Piczon-Perales along with Vice-Mayor Jay B. Go met the families of the victims at the open shed of the City Hall Garden to provide them with “ayuda” or financial assistance. This was posted on the Toledo City Public Information Office social media page. The mayor granted the families of deceased workers the amount of Php15 million. For the victims who are injured, they were given Php5 million. Additionally, they were all given food packs. [4] On 29 Jan. 2021, the Office of Senator Christopher “Bong” Go distributed assistance to the Toledo City residents who were affected by the landslide in CCC mine. This was held at the Carmen Copper Recreation Center, Toledo City, Cebu. During the distribution, 248 families received meals, financial assistance, food packs, vitamins, face masks and face shields. Senator Go also gave bicycles and shoes to selected recipients, and computer tablets for their children to be used for online classes. Health and safety protocols were strictly implemented to avoid the further spread of COVID-19. The Senator was not present during the distribution but he sent them a video message with words of encouragement. [5] Senator Go also offered assistance to those who needed major medical operations such as heart surgeries. He urged those in need of such medical attention to seek assistance from any of the Malasakit Centers in the province. [5] While the local and national government along with CCC are busy sending assistance to the families of the victims of the December landslide, mining industry in general received backlashes from various groups who believe that the deaths and injuries could have been prevented. Barely a month before the landslide, there had been reports from residents of Barangay Biga in Toledo City who claim they warned officials of the MGB Central Visayas and CCC as well about large cracks in the village prior to the landslide. However, they said that their appeal was not properly addressed. [6] Biga Barangay Captian Pedro Sepada Jr. told a local newspaper in Cebu last 29 Dec. 2020 that prior to the landslide, barangay officials called for an emergency consultative meeting on 26 Nov. 2020 with representatives of CCC, MGB 7 and Biga residents to talk about the possible measures to be done after the cracks were discovered. Sepada said that MGB 7 Director Armando Malicse and CCC Vice President for Safety, Ignas Alburo were present. No representative from the Toledo City government was present. Sepada noted that during the meeting, they were not given a concrete response or alternative solution by CCC or MGB to provide assurance to the residents that they will all be safe while mining operations are ongoing. But Sepada said that they were simply told by MGB 7 and CCC officials that their place remained safe. [6] According to the local news reports in Toledo City, residents now believe the huge cracks caused the fatal landslide.      “It was only after the landslide last Dec. 21, that they declared our area to be unsafe within a radius of 600-meter distance from the pipeline of Carmen Copper. They now say it’s unsafe. What happened to their guarantee of safety before?” [6] Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said last December that they shall leave the investigation to MGB before implementing any course of action. She mentioned that she will leave it up to the MGB 7 to decide whether or not CCC has any liability.  Garcia said, “The investigation is not our expertise nor is that our mandate. MGB has already issued a suspension of operations and MGB is going to undertake the investigation. So let’s put things in proper perspective. While the investigation is ongoing, perhaps it is best to wait for the results.” [6] “I am not taking any sides. I want to be as objective as possible. However, there are some personalities who are not as objective because they have their own interest in Carmen Copper. They want to control so that they can do business with Carmen Copper. This is a warning to those who want to make it difficult.” Garcia also noted that CCC mining operations have given so much to Toledo City in terms of employment and the city’s development. She said that a thorough investigation is needed in order to prevent those with “personal interest” in the mining operations of CCC from ruining the lives of so many people working there. [6] Garcia assured the Province will provide assistance and support to the families of miners who died and those who remain missing after the landslide. [6] Renester P. Suraltra, a college professor wrote a commentary last December on SunStar Cebu with the title “Toledo tragedy: The untold story”. He wrote, “Who is always responsible for any mining accident? Is it nature or man? Who is at fault? Is it the bad weather or the safety engineer?” “Accidents may happen in the workplace but it can also be avoided. We can’t discount the fact that accidents can happen because of unsafe supervision, lack of situation awareness, and failure to identify the potential threat. That’s the job of the safety engineer under the direction and supervision of sympathetic and responsible management. If workers are dying frequently then responsible mining is a big issue.” “There is another lesson to be learned in the Toledo mining tragedy. We should never compromise safety and security. We can’t always blame nature out of man’s folly. One should think that the mining industry provides short-term revenue but long-term harmful effect on nature and the environment. Life is much precious than copper and gold.” [7] Acknowledgement: Ryan Peter Vivo Penaranda for Cebuano to English translation from some news articles   Reference: [1] Mines and Geosciences Bureau Press Release (22 Dec. 2020)."Carmen Copper Mine In-Pit Landslide Incident". [2] ANV (23 Dec. 2020). SunStar Cebu. "Listahan sa namatay, missing sa Carmen pit gipagawas". [3] WBS and PR (27 Dec. 2020). SunStar Cebu. "Carmen Copper Corp. commits to help landslide victims' families".  [4] Toledo City Public Information Office Facebook Page (8 Feb. 2021). "Families of the victims of the land in Biga Pit Gitagaan ug ayuda in Toledo". [5] Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Facebook Page (31 Jan. 2021). "Hundreds of Toledo City, Cebu residents affected by a copper mine landslide receive assistance from Senator Bong Go". [6] Sabalo, Wenilyn (30 Dec. 2020). SunStar Cebu. "Biga chief claims please ignored before landslide". Retrieved from - [7] Suralta, Renester P. (27 Dec. 2020). SunStar Cebu. "Tell it to SunStar: Toledo tragedy: The untold story". Retrieved from -


Marcelle P. Villegas - March 17, 2021

First Offshore Magnetite Iron Mining in the PH

Last December, Apollo Global Capital’s (PSE: APL) subsidiary, JDVC Resources Corporation, announced that Department of Environment and Natural Resources granted them a permit to start the commercial operations of the country’s first offshore magnetite iron mining project. According to JDVC and APL consultant, Jun Herrera, the mining operations in Cagayan are expected to start by mid or end of February. He said that the first newly-built deep sea mining vessel arrived in Cagayan and needed to take shelter for now due to strong sea currents. In relation to this project, they assured the government that there will be minimal impact on the marine ecosystem as per the studies and survey conducted by a Singapore-based company. Their study shows that there is no coral or aquamarine life within the mining area which is located 150 meters below sea level. Herrera stated that three more vessels are expected to arrive this year. The vessel is capable of commercial extraction, sampling, testing and production of magnetite iron. [1] With regards to the apprehension of some residents of Ballesteros in Cagayan that this offshore mining operation will destroy the coral ecosystem, APL addressed the issue by stating that such assumption by the locals has no basis. APL stated last January, “We won’t even be mining in their waters. In the first place, our mining operation will be in the waters of Buguey and Gonzaga towns, and at a distance of over 14 kilometers. That’s more than two horizon lengths away from the shoreline.” Lazaro Ramos, a resident of Ballesteros, sent a formal complaint to DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu. Ramos warned them of the possible “catastrophe” that the offshore mining will bring about should it resumes. He mentioned in comparison a study conducted by Craig Smith from the University of Hawaii regarding the ocean seabed in the NE Pacific abyssal waters. APL, however, contradicted this argument by Ramos and said that the study by Craig Smith is applicable to a different part of the ocean and not necessarily comparable with the mining site in Cagayan.  “That’s a different part of the Pacific. It looks at the ocean bed more than 200 meters below sea level, whereas we can only go down to 150 meters with current technology. Moreover, the Smith study did not look at magnetite iron reserves. From the experience of countries like Indonesia, Japan and New Zealand, magnetite iron is known to be toxic to corals, fish and other aquamarine life.” Moreover, JDVC emphasised on the study results done by the Singapore-based survey company whom they commissioned to conduct a full “sea bottom profile” of its mining tenements off Cagayan. As mentioned, their study reveals no corals or aquamarine life in the area. APL also reported that they have done their part in coordinating with the locals and providing corporate social responsibility activities for the residents of Buguey and Gonzaga. “We’re proud to say that over 90 percent of the residents support us and are even anxious for us to get started.” According to Herrera, the municipalities of Aparri, Buguey and Gonzaga received funding from the Development Bank of the Philippines. These are the municipalities covered by the mining project. DBP grated JDVC a grant worth $8-million credit line for the magnetite iron mining project.   Herrera said, “We have proven to them [DBP] that it’s environmentally safe.” He added, “The DBP loan has zero borrowings yet as of now, hence, our company remains to be zero debts and internally funded by our shareholders. The DBP loan will only kick off once we have the letter of credit presented to the bank for the discounting the letter of credit of export buyers, to obtain a 90-day working capital, to fund the production of the ordered iron ore.” This project is seen as profitable, because magnetite mining has a strong market globally. In China, for example, they consider the steel industry as their “roadmap for their economic recovery”. Herrera mentioned that JVDC is an ISO-certified company. This means that there is an assurance that they shall comply with environmental standards. With all these assurances of a promising mining project ahead, some still have apprehension about it, perhaps rooting down to past incidents. In November 2020, the Cagayan Valley region was greatly affected by the Super Typhoon Rolly and Typhoon Ulysses. The two simultaneous typhoons are classified as category-5 and category-4 tropical cyclones respectively. As an effect, the devastation was great marked by massive flooding in Isabela and Cagayan provinces. [2] The residents in those areas blame the National Irrigation Association (NIA) for the flood when they opened the floodgates of the nearby Magat Dam on the last minute. The two provinces were submerged in high waters as high as a two-storey building. NIA on the other hand firmly contradicted such claim and explained that the release of water from Magat Dam was not the main cause of flooding. NIA points out that proper and sufficient warnings were given to those communities in low-lying areas. Additionally, they stated that the volume of water released was only 25% of the carrying capacity of the Cagayan River. The river is the longest stream in the Philippines that serves as the catch basin of the nine provinces in three regions. [2] Aside from the two typhoons, a second issue related with the river was about the illegal magnetite mining at the mouth of the Cagayan River in the municipality of Aparri. The provincial board of Cagayan appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019 to stop the dredging operations of Pacific Offshore Exploration, Inc. (POEI) due to potential threat to the environment and the livelihood of the locals. The Chinese company Zhong Hai Gravel Group headed by Dong Biao Su is POEI’s partner in that operation. The company was controversial recently after the Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Coast Guard raided its Zhonhai 68 dredging vessel during a maritime security patrol off the Bataan coast. “Bureau of Customs are poised to issue a warrant of seizure and detention against the undocumented vessel.” However, the Chinese Embassy in Manila claimed that the vessel is technically non-Chinese because it is registered under an African flag of convenience. [2] Currently, JDVC Resources Corp. is the first and only company that was granted a declaration of mining project feasibility by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to extract magnetite sand and other minerals in Cagayan. In response to Cagayan’s decade-old black sand mining problem, the launching of Cagayan River Rehabilitation Project last February 2 is seen to solve the problem. DENR stated early in February that mining regulations will strictly monitor the extraction of magnetite or black sand in the coastal waters and rivers of Cagayan province. [3] With regards to APL’s/JDVC Resources Corp.’s offshore magnetite iron mining, MGB Director Wilfredo Monaco stated the project has gone through an environmental impact assessment system processes and the company has secured an environmental clearance certificate (ECC) from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB). [3]  “JDVC has undergone environmental impact assessment and the company was issued an ECC, which means environmental issues have been considered by the EMB,” Moncano stated. Magnetite or black sand mining is supposed to be banned in the Philippines, but Moncano explained that the extraction of the said mineral offshore is allowed. He said, “Mining in shoreline is prohibited but offshore mining is allowed.  If it is at least 1,500 meters from the shoreline going out to the sea, it is allowed.” He also assured that the company’s operation will be monitored by the MGB and EMB, that in case of any destruction or damage to the coastal or marine ecosystem by JDVC Resources Corp., there will be a corresponding penalty under the mining law. “What is important is that the JDVC will not cause damage to the coastal or marine ecosystem,” he said. As for mining in rivers like in the Cagayan River, it is also allowed as long as the primary purpose of the project is river rehabilitation or restoration. One example is their plan to extract some 7 million metric tons of sand to remove three of the 19 sandbars along is stretch. Moncano said that the DENR-MGB will also monitor the dredging operations because while the activity is primarily flood mitigation, the minerals to be extracted include magnetite sand. [3] Moncano stated, “Black sand mining is also part of the purposes that’s why we will assess the mineral content of the river channel. If the magnetite sand contained surpasses the threshold of 6 percent, we will charge the company of 4-percent excise tax.” He said that every shipment will undergo mineral assessment. (--Marcelle P. Villegas, PRJ) References: [1] Flores, Alena Mae S. (31 Jan. 2021). Manila Standard. "Apollo Global announces subsidiary’s start of magnetite mining operations in Cagayan". [2] Gamboa, J. Albert (5 Feb. 2021). Business World. "Building back better in Cagayan Valley". [3] Mayuga, Jonathan L. (4 Feb. 2021). Business Mirror. "MGB exec vows to keep tabs of Cagayan River magnetite quarry operations set to start in February".


Marcelle P. Villegas - March 12, 2019

How wars and historical events affected the mining industry

By Marcelle P. Villegas For the past centuries, the mining industry in the Philippines was greatly affected by the changes of government or colonisers, events around the world and more. It seems that whenever there is war, there is also a rise in the demand in certain mineral resources or a fall in the production rate of some minerals. August is History Month in the Philippines as promoted by Government and Education sectors. The Philippines is rich in natural resources, cultural heritage and more noticeably, we are rich in history which brought progress or hindrance in economic growth through the years. Last August, during the Philippine Mining and Exploration Association (PMEA) Monthly Membership Meeting, one of the keynote speakers is Mr Hernulfo “Nonoy” Ruelo, Geologist Consultant. The title of his presentation is “Copper-Gold Discoveries and Mine in the Philippines - Understanding the Past, in order to make sense of the Current, and the Future”. It was a well-researched report and analysis on how historical events, like wars or change in leaders, affected the mining sector and the socio-economic status of the country. The presentation takes us back in time with some rare vintage photos from the past. During the pre-Spanish Period, the earliest use of metal in the Philippines by our Filipino ancestors was the use of copper for ornamentation, not for tools or currency. Other metals used were gold and tumbaga (copper alloyed with gold). “Gold was the major form of ‘currency’ among the early Filipinos and one of the first things they [ancestors] taught their children was the knowledge of gold and the weights with which they measured.” (From the book by Evelyn J. Caballero, 1996. “Gold from the Gods: Traditional small-scale miners in the Philippines”. Giraffe Books, Quezon City.( p 196 and 263) On note, the pre-colonial mining methods had no environmental impact on land, water, air and people. Pre-Spanish Period Mining in the Philippines started in the 3rd century when gold was traded with China and the Javanese empire where the height of this trade was during 12th to 14th century. The Chinese were the first foreign miners. Gold is both a commodity and a medium of exchange. When the Spaniards arrived in the 1521, gold was already being mined, traded and used as jewelry or ornamentation by the native Filipinos. In fact, 16th century Filipino noblemen were decked in gold. Colonial Period Under Spain 1500s - 1898: Paracale and Cordillera were the oldest goldfields. From 1500s - 1700s, gold was one of the tributes collected by the Spanish government and given to the King of Spain. In 1583 and 1595, an expedition was sent to mine in Cordillera but was a failure due to the resistance of the Igorots. “Gold mining before the coming of the Americans was primarily in the hands of enterprises organized in the Philippines by Spaniards and Chinese mestizos and Filipinos, with a few other companies trying, without success, to produce commercially.” (Ref. - Wirkus 1974) In 1600 to 1700, about 10,000 ounces of gold per annum were shipped to Spain, and the gold shipments to Spain increased from 1800 to 1895. For copper, the Spaniards opened the first copper mine in the country in 1842, called the Carawisan copper mine in Antique province. From 1864 to 1874, the Contrabro-Filipino Company operated Mankayan Copper Mine. Gold mining made its comeback in commerce in 1892 where concessions to foreigners were first granted. The British explorer, Frank Karuth of Philippine Mineral Syndicate, led the commercial-scale hard-rock and alluvial gold operations in Paracale District until 1895. (Ref. - Chaput 1987) Philippine Revolution 1896 – 1902: With the rise of the Philippine revolt against Spain, in 1896, mining operations at Paracale dwindled until 1902 when the Filipino-American War ended. The Organic Act of 1902 was created which organized companies, issued patents, and established the Geological & Mining Science Department. By 1927, gold was the third best export commodity and initiated by the Philippine (Manila) Stock Exchange. In the following years, the Mining Act of 1935 was released (Commonwealth Act 137) which introduced the Regalian Doctrine, the concept of Mining Lease, and the establishment of Bureau of Mines. The Americans invested US$ 34.2M in gold production. Mining for copper was reopened in 1936, the same time when the Japanese savvy for copper was high and led to the ‘discovery’ of the first large porphyry copper deposit in the country. Commonwealth Period 1937 - 1941: This period in Philippine history was considered a golden era when Manila was highly modernised and was one of the most beautiful cities in Southeast Asia. In fact, in 1937, we had the best and well-equipped airport in the Southeast Asia, the Nielson Airport. (This is now Ayala Triangle Park in Makati City, and the original Nielson Tower is now “Blackbird” Restaurant.) Although this elegant airport was primary used as an aviation school, it also paved the way for trade and commerce for foreign investors. Philippine Airline made its first commercial flight in 1941, from Nielson Airport to Baguio. The Philippines was the largest gold producer in Asia and second only to California in world production. During the American period, 9 million oz of gold was produced from 1906 – 1941. Japanese Occupation 1942 – 1945: Being a colony of United States of America, the Philippines got itself involved in war against the Japanese who invaded Manila in 1942. The Japanese took over Lepanto and the Hixbar mines (Rapu-rapu) and was able to mine and extract 11,000 tonnes of copper. No gold production was recorded. With the aggressive strategies of conquering their neighboring countries, Japan was unstoppable that time in their collection of natural resources that were needed to fuel their warships and planes and the production of weapons. Battleships Musashi and Yamato where the two giants in naval power that made Japan feared by other nations. The two battleships were defeated though in the Philippines during the Battle in Leyte Gulf in October 1945 which paved the way to the Liberation of Manila and eventually the whole country. Post-war Reconstruction 1946 – 1954: Those post-war years were hard times for all war-torn countries. However, with the need for repairs infrastructure after WWII, there was an increase in the global demand for copper. Some gold mines in the Philippines were rehabilitated but the problems were lack of capital and low market demand. Copper production re-started in 1947. Since Manila was the ground zero and battlefield of the war that ended WWII in the Pacific (Battle of Manila in 1945), there were serious damages in the country’s economy and on the mining industry. Korean War 1954 – 1960: For the Filipino soldiers who fought the Japanese during WWII, the Korean War was the first time for them to fight a battle in a foreign land. Although this war affected Southeast Asia directly, the gold prices maintained. However, in mid 1950s, the gold mines collapsed due to a recession period. The copper price rose slight due to high world demand. More Philippine copper mines opened. Vietnam War 1960-1975: In 1972, U.S. President Nixon took dollar off the gold standard. It was fixed at $35 since 1934, but gold prices are allowed to float free which devalued dollar to $38. In 1973, world gold price jumped from $38 to $120. World copper rate hit high at $0.90 in 1974. World copper mine production was at its peak. Martial Law 1972 - 1986: During Martial Law in the Philippines, copper price trended upward where the country’s copper production continued and boomed in 1980 where it reached its peak. It was in 1980 when Philippine copper production was recorded the highest at 306 Kt. However, the World Oil Crisis in 1973 - 1980 brought about a decline in copper demand. World Recession in 1982 – 1984 pulled down the copper prices. Philippine inflation devalued the Philippine peso and there was an increase in production costs, materials and equipment. The Global recession resulted in a decline in copper demand. The Philippine gold production was sustained and gold prices surged from 1978 to 1980. The modern Gold Bloom in 1980s brought about the rise of unregulated Small Scale Mining. In summary, the explanatory variables of growth and decline in PH copper industry in the 1950s-1980s are: - For Copper resources: risk capital or investments, development in the world’s copper market, technology, human capital in mining, domestic social, legal, and political environment . - For the gold industry: gold resources, competition, commodity price, production costs, technology (bulk mining, milling, treatment), damages – natural & man-made disasters (Reference). T.M. Santos 2001 . Growth of Copper Production: Determinants and Empirical Evidence. Social Science Diliman, July-December 2001. 2:2, 1-49.) There were other historical events in the Philippines that followed like: EDSA Revolution: 1986-1992 - gold averaged $381, copper $1.02 – There was investment uncertainty and several mines closed. New mining laws were crafted like the 1991 RA 7076 (Small Scale Mining Act). The 1987 Constitution replaced Leasehold into Agreements system. From 1990s – 2004, there was collapse of the local mining industry. However from 2004 – 2009, there was a revitalization of the mining industry with EO 270 National Policy Agenda – Mineral Action Plan. Gold price surged from $410 to $873. Copper production hit lowest in 2004 at 16 Kt since 1957. The year 2005 brought global gold boom where Philippine gold-copper mines had expansion and reopening. The Aquino Administration from 2010-2016 was within the Global Mining Boom period (2010 - 2013). It was a successful period for Philippine mine exploration, prospect drill-testing, and resource evaluation drilling. In conclusion, Mr Ruelo presented a list of challenges that miners will need to face at the present time, namely: - Fewer outcropping “easy-to-find” deposits are now left except in high-risk and “inaccessible” areas. - Current mining operations will encounter increasing real costs (labor, materials, energy, environmental, community impact) that will affect production. - The next generation of lower-grade copper/gold projects require significantly higher metal prices to justify development. - We need to discover high-quality or better gold/copper resources, even deeper ones that can be economically mined – e.g. in greenfields and brownfields.

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Philippine Resources - September 24, 2021

DOTr, Pasay City sign deal for monorail, flyover extension

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Philippine Resources - September 24, 2021

DOTr eyes GenSan airport as alternate int'l gateway

Photo credit: Department of Transportation The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is pushing for the inclusion of the newly rehabilitated and expanded airport here as among the alternate gateways for returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and international travelers. DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade proposed the move on Thursday as he personally led the formal unveiling and inauguration of the city airport’s new passenger terminal building and other completed facilities. He said the city’s international standard airport can accommodate airline passengers coming in from as far as the Middle East. Tugade said it can be realized once the proposed increase in the daily cap for returning OFWs, currently at 2,000 for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), is approved. Once the cap is expanded, he said NAIA might “choke” with the influx of airline passengers from various countries. “If we will increase the cap, we need to expand our gateways and not limit them to Clark, Cebu, and NAIA. We can include GenSan among the gateways for travelers from Doha who are going to Manila,” he said in a press conference. He said they will propose such strategy with the airlines serving the international routes, including the Philippine Airlines, and seek the approval of the city government. The other possible alternate gateways could be the Laoag International Airport in Ilocos Norte and the Bohol-Panglao International Airport, Tugade said. The rehabilitated and expanded General Santos Airport passenger terminal building, which was completed early this month, is part of the PHP959-million upgrade implemented by the national government. The other completed components are the procurement and installation of navigational aids and the construction of the new Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) administration building at the airport. Under the project, Tugade said the passenger terminal area has tripled in size from 4,000 to 12,000 square meters. “This will allow the airport to accommodate more passengers and provide them comfortable and convenient travel,” he said in his speech. A DOTr report said the larger passenger terminal building can now accommodate around 2 million passengers annually, a significant jump from the previous 800,000 per year. Tugade said the improvement at the city airport will continue next year with the upgrading of its air control tower, which he considered as “too low.” He said they will build a “higher and modernized” tower in 2022 to make it “more world-class” and can easily adjust to the needs of the airport. The official said the upgrading of the airport, which started in 2018, is among the agency and the national government’s top priorities in Mindanao. He said the initiative is part of the government’s efforts to bring more progress and economic opportunities in Mindanao, which “suffered from long years of neglect in terms of development.” Tugade said they endeavored to implement these projects despite the challenges posed by the continuing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic to pursue their goal of giving a “comfortable and convenient life” to Filipinos. “After the pandemic, we want all these developments in place and ready to benefit the people,” he said. In a video message, President Rodrigo Duterte commended the DOTr, the local government, and concerned stakeholders for completing the projects at the city airport amid the Covid-19 pandemic. He said the city has “gone a long way” in terms of the development of its air connectivity and airport facilities. “The rehabilitation and expansion of the airport passenger terminal building, among others, will truly boost General Santos City’s role as an agro-industrial and eco-tourism hub,” the President said. City Mayor Ronnel Rivera lauded the national government for helping the city realize its dream of having an international-standard airport. Aside from the expanded passenger terminal building, the airport is now capable of accommodating bigger aircraft like Boeing 737 and 747, as well as Airbus A330, A340, and A350. “(What) we are seeing now is a result of multisectoral commitment and dedication in various stages of the airport development, which includes coordination of several initiatives, preparation of the airport master plan, operations, and marketing,” he said. The mayor said the local government will continue to engage with prospective investors and airlines for the opening of more flights to and from the airport and the development of adjacent areas. He cited the proposed establishment of an aerotropolis or growth area centered on the city airport and its surrounding areas. “We are opening a wide array of opportunities, not only on the improvement of our infrastructure facilities but also in terms of investments that will generate more economic opportunities for the city and the entire region (Soccsksargen),” he said. Aside from the inauguration of the airport projects, Tugade also led the unveiling of completed initiatives at the Makar port here. The DOTr said it includes the construction of the Port Operations Building and other vital facilities, which includes a parking area, covered court, port manager’s quarter or Day Care Center, and drainage system. “The improved port of Makar will now offer safer, comfortable, and a more convenient port experience to passengers, while ensuring a faster turnaround for vessels, cargo trucks, and other ancillary service providers,” it said.   Article courtesy of the Philippine News Agency


Philippine Resources - September 22, 2021

Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway 83% Complete

Photo credit: Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway As of August 31, 2021, the construction progress of the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX) project was at 83.84 percent. The P30-billion toll bridge, which will be substantially completed by the end of 2021, will use a full electronic toll system when it opens to motorists in the first quarter of 2022 to enable faster traffic flow and seamless travel. The project recently marked a milestone with the completion of the installation of all 56 stay cables that hold the main bridge deck. On September 11, the Cebu Cordova Link Expressway Corporation (CCLEC), through its contractor, installed the last and longest stay cable, which is 219 meters long. The gap on the main bridge, on the other hand, is now down to only two meters before span closure and preparations are underway for the lowering of the form travelers. These form travelers, which weigh 500 tons in each tower, were used to construct the main bridge’s pier table and deck. Also, all 434 NU (Nebraska University) girders for the entire project have already been installed. With this, the mobile launching gantry used to install the girders have been demobilized. At the Cebu South Coastal Road (CSCR) on ramp and off ramp sections of CCLEX, construction of its substructures is complete. Ongoing works are now on the installation of precast planks and the concreting of deck slab. Also finished is the 200-meter pedestrian footbridge beside the CSCR with all six prefabricated steel walkways already installed. The footbridge will start near the U-turn slot of the South Road Properties’ welcome tower and will connect to the on-ramp sidewalk of CCLEX. At the Cebu viaduct, the construction of deck slab is ongoing. The Cordova viaduct, on the other hand, is now structurally complete with its substructure already done. Installation of handrails are underway. At the causeway, embankment works continue to progress with the placing of 20 vent pipes, which equalize the flow of seawater along the Cordova Channel, is finished. Also structurally complete are the four low-level bridges along the causeway, which will provide fishermen continued access to their fishing grounds. Aside from these, works are ongoing for the toll plaza and the CCLEX Operations and Maintenance Center. CCLEX, highlighted by its iconic crosses on top of the twin pylons of the cable-stayed main bridge over the Mactan Channel, is Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation’s (MPTC) first toll road project outside Luzon. CCLEX, which will be the third link to Mactan Island from Cordova Municipality to mainland Cebu through Cebu City’s South Road Properties, has a design speed of 80 kilometers per hour (kph) and a navigational clearance or height of 51 meters to allow large vessels to pass underneath the bridge. Not only is CCLEX seen to reduce traffic and make traveling more convenient but also spur trade activities and open greater economic opportunities for Cebu and the rest of the Visayas region. CCLEX is a project of Cebu Cordova Link Expressway Corporation (CCLEC), in partnership with the local government units of Cebu City and Municipality of Cordova. CCLEC is a wholly owned subsidiary of MPTC, the toll road arm of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC), a publicly listed infrastructure holding company and a member of the MVP Group of Companies. MPTC is the largest toll road concessionaire and operator in the Philippines, which expansion goals include establishing toll operations in the Visayas, other parts of the Philippines, and in neighboring countries notably Vietnam, and Indonesia.   Article courtesy of Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway

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