Agata Mining Ventures Inc. (AMVI), a project of TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc., was conferred the 2021 Presidential Mineral Industry Environmental Award (PMIEA) in an intimate ceremony last November 26.
It is the company’s third time to be feted with the country’s highest distinction for exceptional environmental performance, safety and health practices, social development and effective Information, Education and Communication programs.
“The Philippine mining industry remained resilient and kept the country’s economic engine running – even at the height of the pandemic,” said company president, Cynthia Marie S. Delfin.
“This award – given as we are emerging from this pandemic and opening up the economy – is truly a symbol of commitment, resilience and hope. I thank the men and women of Agata for keeping our corporate vessel on course in transforming our business, bringing innovations to our industry and successfully engaging our communities in a meaningful development.”
“With the effects of climate change looming in the near distance, the partnership of industry and Government is more important than ever. The responsible mining of minerals will provide us the ingredients by which we can reduce our carbon footprint and give the environment the chance to heal itself – and us, in the process,” said Delfin.
Agata is among the country’s mining companies that continued to operate since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Focus on people
The company continues to take great strides to ensure the wellbeing of its employees and its host communities and has achieved over 22 million safe man-hours with no lost time from accidents.
It has established the Agata Emergency Response Team equipped to provide immediate response in times of calamities and disasters and likewise trained counterpart community ERTs in host Tubay, Santiago and Jabonga Municipalities to ensure public safety.
The same team took the lead in implementing Agata’s COVID-19 response from 2020 to 2021 as the company realigned close to Php10 million to conduct relief and assistance operations that served some 11,500 beneficiaries in Agusan del Norte.
It also sourced organic vegetables and livestock from its community livelihood projects to sustain the economic activity in the three towns.
The company also provided vitamins and medicines, PPEs, and other medical supplies to health centers, checkpoints and other frontliners in the region.
Right from the start
Prior to its maiden shipment of laterite nickel ore in 2014, Agata already began its reforestation activities; thus, underscoring that responsibility starts even before mining does.
During its first full-year of operations in 2015, it was one of the youngest mining projects to be recognized with the PMIEA Titanium Achievement Award, which it would again win the following year. Prior to these, it already achieved a Safest Exploration Runner-Up award.
Agata went on to corner the 2017 PMIEA Platinum Achievement Award and successive Presidential Mineral Industry Environment Awards in the next two years as well as the 2019 ASEAN Mineral Awards under the Metallic Minerals Distribution Category – its first international recognition and one that would further cement its reputation among larger and more tenured mining projects in Southeast Asia.
Its future-oriented principle inculcated a genuine care for the environment across its ranks as the company remains committed to internationally accepted standards and best practices. As its business grew along with a thriving global steel industry, so did its commitment to its stakeholders and beneficiary communities.
During this time, it supported its host Mamanwa tribe in obtaining their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title. The tribe members are now fully recognized owners of their ancestral land and have traversed their chosen path to self-determination.
Apart from environmentally-sound and systematic mining operations, the company integrates the Life Cycle Perspective approach in its Environmental Framework Policy – which serves as a definitive guideline for identifying environmental objectives such as: energy efficiency, water recycling, waste reduction and recovery, and the efficient use of resources.
The company ensures holistic engagement across the organization and the community. This level of involvement in the company’s objectives further enables Agata to achieve the most efficient use of its resources under its Integrated Management System (IMS).
Along the peripheries of its active mine areas, Agata established environmental mitigating controls and measures such as directional drainages, silt traps and sumps, sediment ponds, in-pit sediment ponds, and silt curtains to keep major bodies of water clean. Mined-out areas are also rehabilitated with topsoil and seedlings in preparation for reforestation and final rehabilitation.
The Company minimizes waste and upcycles 100% of all collected biodegradable waste into secondary beneficial use. It has likewise entered research programs with the Caraga State University, the De La Salle University, Mindanao Central University and Mindanao State University to study waste and silt products.
Agata switched to energy efficient technologies such as rechargeable batteries for both light vehicles and heavy equipment, observes paperless reporting, conducts preventive maintenance for its vehicle fleet to reduce fuel consumption, and recycles water for dust suppression.
The company also secured its first ISO 14001:2004 certification in 2016 and upgraded to an Integrated Management System (IMS) in 2019, forging a concrete IMS Policy that satisfies the requirements of ISO 9001:2015 (QMS), ISO 14001:2015 (EMS) and ISO 45001:2018 (OH&S). From 2020 onwards, the company maintained the efficiency of the IMS Policy and successfully passed the third-party ISO Surveillance Audit without any major “non-conformance.”
Rehabilitation and transformation
Agata has invested some Php83.5 million in its environmental management activities.
Beyond the figures, the company has long established the progressive rehabilitation of affected areas even as early as its exploration phase. This is aligned with its vision of transforming the project area into an ‘Agroforestry and Ecotourism Hub’ at the end of its mine life.
While tourism and mining appear to be opposing industries, the AgriTourism-Thematic Landscaping concept was the chosen transformative mine rehabilitation program for expanding the middle ground, literally, for its rehabilitated areas.
The company has rehabilitated a total land area of over 30 hectares while more than 60 hectares have undergone final rehabilitation. Meantime, another 20 hectares have completed its Temporary Revegetation Program (TRP) in June 2021. All these are documented and submitted to concerned agencies as Mining Forest Program (MFP) and National Greening Program (NGP) reports. To date, the company has planted over 440 hectares with 423,807 trees with a forest density of over 1,000 trees per hectare.
Agata prides itself in being one of the most photogenic mine sites in Caraga, which is in line with developing the area for both agroforestry and ecotourism for the local community.
“In the bigger scheme of things, Agata is preparing its beneficiaries and indigenous hosts to become a productive and self-sustaining community who will continue to prosper beyond the life of the mine,” explained General Manager Emilio T. Figueroa III.
The company has developed a Community Royalty Development Program (CRDP) for its indigenous communities and trains them on investing their Royalties for their future.
Today, the indigenous people have greatly improved their health standards, literacy and means of livelihood.
The company also established a techno demo-farm that is accredited by TESDA as a farm school. It trains town residents on organic farming, trec planting, livestock raising, management and marketing. It aims to train more people in order for them to gain both livelihood and food security.
“Agata’s core principle of “Starting it Right, Keeping the End in Mind” has come full circle – further validating that its chosen strategy is the right one. And as it looks to the future, Agata draws confidence from its thriving communities who will continue to prosper long after the life of the mine,” concluded Figueroa. (Press Release)