Agata Corners First ASEAN Mineral Award
Following its recent back-to-back Presidential Awards during the Philippines’ Annual National Mine Safety and Environment Conference last month, Agata Mining Ventures Inc. landed its first international recognition, earning a coveted first runner-up in the Mineral Distribution Category of the ASEAN Mineral Awards in Bangkok, Thailand.
During the event, which coincided with the seventh ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Minerals, the company edged-out competition from across Southeast Asia and came next to Indonesia’s state-owned PT Antam – the region’s largest nickel producer to date.
The prestigious award is given to a mining company of an ASEAN member country, recognizing its best practices and being an exemplary model of environmentally and socially-sustainable mining.
Philippine entries were chosen and screened by the Philippine ASEAN Mineral Awards Committee composed of technical experts from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) – the lead agency appointed by a Special Task Force under the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Minerals (ASOMM).
“Agata is guided by its philosophy of ‘starting it right and keeping the end in mind.’ It envisions to develop sustainable mining communities and a thriving natural environment that will go beyond the life of the mine,” according to General Manager Emilio T. Figueroa III.
The executive explained that the organization’s philosophy also led the company towards growth and securing its place among the country’s major nickel producers. He also attributes its two successive Presidential Awards in merely four years of operations to the same guiding principle.
“Agata may pale in size compared to bigger, more seasoned mining companies. But despite this, Agata strove to be among the best – proving to the mining industry that it (responsible mining) can be done,” he said.
The alignment of Agata’s business objectives and the needs of the people holds true for the sustainable communities of its host towns Tubay, Santiago and Jabonga in Agusan del Norte Province where it operates – especially the indigenous Manobo and Mamanwa tribes who benefited from increased economic activity and mining royalties that significantly improved their way of life.
Pride in its people
Agata takes pride in cultivating the community’s sense of ownership in maintaining a sustainable natural environment. Its townsfolk are its first line of defense in safeguarding its protected tributaries, including the 29-kilometer Kalinawan River and 20-hectare marine sanctuary. They are likewise deeply involved in the company’s Ridge-to-Reef Program: from upland farming down to protecting its shores.
Agata is proud of its communities who have embarked on a big scale agroforestry venture spanning over 150 hectares. Its indigenous hosts alone have established a 20-hectare Cacao plantation and are steadily transforming the area into an Agroforestry-Ecotourism Hub.
Another source of pride for the company is its host Mamanwa Tribe who followed their chosen path to self-determination, obtained their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title and are now fully-recognized owners of their ancestral land.
The community’s overwhelming hunger for knowledge was demonstrated in the Agata-supported Mabakas Techno Demo Farm, which produced ‘cacao doctors’ and more than 2,000 Organic Farming Technology graduates eligible for TESDA National Certification. These graduates have now enjoyed additional livelihood and employment opportunities.
“Agata is most grateful that its host barangays have successfully emerged as strong and resilient communities. As of today, they continue to pursue the development roadmap that we crafted together. They clearly validated that our chosen philosophy of ‘starting it right’ is the right one,” said Figueroa.
A better, ‘greener’ Agata
The company believes that investing in people, succession planning, sharing technology and skills, and developing talents on the grass-roots level will better ensure that a progressive mining community will be able to sustain itself in the years to come.
Agata envisions to be the first Agroforestry and Ecotourism Hub in the region. All its activities – from front-end engineering, community engagements and progressive rehabilitation and reforestation programs – run parallel to achieving this vision.
The company is likewise on its way towards attaining an Integrated Management System with ISO 9001 Quality Management System and ISO 45001 accreditation. All these are focused on leaving Agata a better place – and its communities, an enduring testament – that beyond a doubt, there is life after mining.