Host Communities Free and Prior Informed Consent highlights SMI’s Corporate Social Responsibility

Nov 28, 2011

by Miguel Rodrigo, The American Chronicle

Last year, the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP) honored South Cotabato-based Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) for its high-tech mobile communications facility during its 46th “Gabi ng Parangal” held at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel.

Dubbed the Mobile Community Information and Resource Center (mCIRC), SMI received the PRSP’s prestigious Anvil Award for Excellence in the Public Relations Tools category. The Anvil Award, the symbol of public relations excellence in the country, is given to public relations programs and tools deemed excellent and of quality by a multi-sectoral jury.

SMI GM Mark Williams said the mCIRC is a mobile communications facility that allows the firm to communicate to its various stakeholders on the magnitude and scope of the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project, especially in terms of its environmental and social impacts. Mr. Williams said mCIRC also enables SMI to present important information on its Sustainable Development (SD) plans and policies to its stakeholders, particularly to its host communities to empower them to formulate a free and prior informed decision of the project.

How many other mining firms in the country have taken the trouble to give its host communities and other stakeholders for that matter the wherewithal to reach a “free and prior informed decision” on their projects? The number can be counted by the fingers of one hand.

SMI has a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) with the Philippine Government, for the exploration, development and operation of the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project. The $5.9-billion proposed mining project is located in southern Mindanao, encompassing the provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur.

The Tampakan Copper>Gold Project is located on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, approximately 65 kilometers north of General Santos City. The Project is situated on the boundaries of four provinces: South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur, and represents one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in the Southeast Asia-Western Pacific region.

The Tampakan Project is a 2.4 billion metric ton deposit, containing 13.5 million metric tons of copper and 15.8 million ounces of gold at a 0.3% cut-off grade. It is operated by Philippine-based affiliate Sagittarius Mines, Incorporated (SMI), whose 40% controlling equity is a joint venture among Xstrata Copper (62.5%) and Indophil Resources NL (37.5%). The 60% non>controlling equity shareholders of SMI are the Tampakan Mining Corporation and Southcot Mining Corporation (known as the Tampakan Group of Companies). In December 2009, the Project employed approximately 252 employees and 1,065 contractors, including a weekly average of 202 local community residents, to support the Project’s exploratory drilling and other operational needs.

With such a staggering amount of capital already sunk into the project, why SMI bothered, if at all, to reach its multi-cultural and diverse range of people in the project area should give pause to oppossitors of all mining projects.  SMI’s Corporate Communications Manager, John Arnaldo said SMI mCIRC was designed to help the company communicate across the region where people speak at least seven languages or dialects with diverse education levels.

Its Touch-screens and 3D technology help present project information to stakeholders such as forest and water management, the mine life cycle, and the proposed mine layout. Support materials are presented in English, Tagalog, Bisaya, Blaan and Ilonggo which detail both the potential benefits and impacts of the project. Since its launch in June 2010, over 15,000 people from nine communities within the Tampakan project area and Baguio have already visited the mCIRC, including members of the community to non-government and local government organizations, business groups and primary and secondary school students.

But SMI’s concerns for its stakeholders even goes beyond the “Free and Informed Consent” of its host communities.

Last year it received its third Presidential Mining Industry Environmental Award (PMIEA) at the 57th Annual National Mine Safety and Environment Conference held in Baguio City, the second consecutive year it was so recognized.

SMI General Manager, Mark Williams, said the company was committed to balancing social, environmental and economic considerations in managing its activities at the Tampakan Project.

The PMIEA is awarded annually to mining companies in recognition of best practices relating to performance in health and safety, environmental management, community development, and stakeholder engagement.

“Our policies and standards are aligned with the sustainable development framework of our major shareholder, Xstrata Copper, and our stakeholders can be confident that the proposed Tampakan project reflects global best practices,” said Mr. Williams.

SMI received an overall rating of 98% for its Social Development and Management Program (SDMP), Information, Education, Communication (IEC), Environmental Management and Safety and Health programs. The firm received its first PMIEA in 2006 for its industry leading practices.

SMI’s sustainability performance was also recognized in a further two categories, with awards for Best Mining Forestry Program and Safest Mine (exploration category).

The company’s Maleh Tu Kayo initiative (Blaan for �let us plant trees’) received the Best Mining Forestry Program Award (exploration category) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for its multi-sectoral approach to reforestation involving volunteers from host and neighboring communities.

SMI maintains two large-scale nurseries that provide stock for reforestation activities in the region. Since 2005, the company has trained local residents in seedling propagation and overseen the distribution and planting of over 500,000 seedlings. The Maleh Tu Kayo program has received multiple honors with previous awards in 2006 and 2008.

The Safest Mine Award (exploration category) was presented to SMI in recognition of its outstanding safety performance in achieving five million man hours without Lost Time Injury (LTI) in January 2010.

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