Orica Philippines: Celebrating 55 Years of Innovation and Excellence in the Mining Industry

By: Edison D. Mating June 26, 2024

As Orica Philippines celebrates its 55th anniversary, the company reflects on its rich history and looks forward to a future of continued innovation and sustainability. Gordon Wallace, country head for Orica Philippines, shared insights into the company's values, achievements, and plans.

A Legacy of Safety and Quality

Orica’s story in the Philippines began with the establishment of the Philippine Explosives Corporation (PEX). Founded to meet the growing demand for explosives in the mining sector, PEX laid the groundwork for what would become Orica Philippines. Orica Philippines began in 1968 with the establishment of a branch office, officially incorporated as a legal entity in 1969 under the name Philippine Explosives Corporation (PEX). This venture was a collaboration with local Philippine businesspeople who continue to be active shareholders. The company’s initial steps were modest, but it laid the foundation for what would become a powerhouse in the mining sector.

In 1998, a pivotal change occurred when the parent company, Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), spun off its explosives division. This division was acquired by Orica, a mining and infrastructure solutions providers from Australia, marking the beginning of a new era. The rebranding to Orica Philippines reflected not only a change in name but also a commitment to growth and innovation.

“Our history with Philippine Explosives Corporation is a testament to our long-standing commitment to the mining industry in the Philippines,” Wallace notes. “From those early days to now, our focus has always been on innovation, safety, and sustainability.”

Orica's commitment to safety and quality is evident in every aspect of its operations. Wallace emphasized, "Safety is our number one priority. It's at the forefront of everything we do, from our operational focus to how we manufacture our products and approach risk management." This unwavering dedication ensures that safety always takes precedence over productivity improvements, thereby maintaining the highest standards in their manufacturing processes.

Sustainability Efforts and Innovations

Orica has set ambitious sustainability targets, including a net-zero goal by 2050. Wallace highlighted significant strides made in reducing environmental impact, particularly in their ammonium nitrate manufacturing facilities. "We've been focusing on the tertiary abatement project in our east coast facilities in Australia, which can deliver a 48% reduction in emissions at our Kooragang Island plant. This initiative alone represents an 11% reduction in Australia's chemical manufacturing emissions," he explained.

In the Philippines, Orica's Limay plant is pioneering waste and energy reduction strategies. Wallace noted, "We are very quality-focused, and part of that involves minimizing waste through better quality assurance processes. Additionally, we're commissioning solar energy projects to supply about 40% of our energy needs and exploring partnerships for the remaining 60% to source from renewable energy providers."

 

Orica Philippines has always been at the forefront of introducing new technologies to the mining industry. In the late 1990s, the company revolutionized mining practices by introducing bulk explosives for open-cut mining. This was followed by the introduction of underground bulk explosives, significantly enhancing operational efficiency and safety.

The company’s commitment to technological advancement continued with the introduction of electronic blasting systems in 2013, which brought precision and safety to a new level. These systems have been widely adopted by major mining operations in the Philippines, underscoring Orica’s role as a leader in the industry.

One of Orica’s most groundbreaking innovations is the WebGen™ wireless blasting system. This cutting-edge technology, which allows for fully wireless communication for blasting operations, is set to be demonstrated in the Philippines later this year. The potential for this technology to revolutionize mining methods is immense, offering unprecedented flexibility and safety.

Supporting the Community and Future Generations

Beyond technological innovations, Orica Philippines has made substantial contributions to the community and the development of future industry leaders. The company’s scholarship and graduate programs have supported 26 scholars over the past 15 years, with a remarkable retention rate of 23 graduates still within the Orica group. This initiative not only aids students financially but also nurtures future engineers who will continue to drive the industry forward.

Orica’s commitment to education is further exemplified by its recent partnership with the University of the Philippines College of Engineering. The company has provided scholarships to seven students, focusing on those from underprivileged backgrounds. This initiative aims to remove financial barriers, allowing these students to concentrate on their studies and achieve their full potential.

Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

Orica Philippines prides itself on its commitment to diversity and inclusion. This is reflected in the company’s workforce and its leadership. Orica's commitment to diversity is not just a corporate slogan but a lived reality within the company. "Globally, women in senior leadership positions have increased from 28% to 34% over the past few years," Wallace shared. In the Philippines, initiatives like the Women in Operations program (WIO) at the Limay plant are paving the way for greater gender representation on the shop floor, traditionally dominated by men. The WIO program is an initiative aimed at promoting greater gender diversity in Orica’s mining operations and was first launched in Indonesia. This program is part of Orica’s commitment to building an inclusive culture, one of the key pillars of Orica’s DEI strategy.

Employee Loyalty and Organizational Culture

One of Orica's distinguishing features is its ability to retain long-term employees. Wallace attributes this to the company's strong values and unique organizational culture. "Our values—togetherness, integrity, safety, respect, and excellence—are deeply embedded in our DNA. This is a large part of why people stay with us for so long," he said.

Orica Philippines also benefits from being part of a global organization while maintaining a strong local presence. Wallace elaborated, "We have a unique mix of being a local company with deep roots in the Philippines and a part of the global Orica group, which allows us to participate in some of the most advanced mining and civil projects worldwide."

Future Growth and Expansion

Looking ahead, Orica Philippines is optimistic about growth opportunities in the local mining industry. "The industry here has been through a tough decade, but there's a renewed sense of confidence and willingness to invest in long-term projects," Wallace observed. The company has recently expanded its production capacity at the Limay plant by 50%, positioning itself to meet future domestic demand.

Wallace concluded with a hopeful outlook, "We believe in the future of the industry here. We're ready and open for business, and we hope the industry's momentum will continue to build."

As Orica Philippines celebrates its 55th anniversary, it stands as a testament to the power of strong values, commitment to safety and quality, and forward-thinking sustainability initiatives. With a workforce of over 1,000 people and operations supporting mining activities across the globe, Orica remains a vital player in the industry. This year, Orica celebrates 150 years in operations. The company’s dedication to safety, efficiency, and technological advancement ensures it will continue to be a leader in the mining sector for years to come.


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