TUBA, Benguet – Adhering to its mandate of helping improve the industry it belongs in through R&D, or research and development, as well as seminars and workshops, Philex Mining Corp. has recently facilitated the completion of training and/or retraining by 23 geologic aides through a company-organized, -funded, and -run program, which espouses continuous learning that leads to “better life situations” for the participants and graduates.

“I support and agree to continue this program provided there are interested trainees,” said the company’s CEO and president, Eulalio Austin, Jr., in a speech during formal ceremonies to honor the first graduates of the Geologic Aide Training Academy (GATA), held Wednesday, Sept. 20, at the Social Hall of Saint Louis High School  Philex, in Itogon’s barangay Ampucao. “We must not forget that education is the greatest inheritance we can have.”

Roy Ronald Luis, manager at Padcal’s Exploration Group, said the program had focused on improving the skills set of the company’s geologic aides and other participants and, consequently, on developing the information dissemination of exploration activities to the communities concerned.

“Geologists of ongoing exploration activities on the different sites of Philex Mining’s MPSA-156 needed more skilled geologic aides to assist them in the conduct of field activities,” he stressed. “And the company’s current geologic aides also required refresher and additional training covering a wide range of subjects to satisfy the different needs of the ongoing exploration projects.”

MPSA, or Mineral Production Sharing Agreement, 156 as well as the company’s MPSA 276 cover more than 5,010 hectares (has.) of land in Tuba and Itogon, but Philex Mining utilizes a measly 580-ha. area of these for its mining operations 410 has. for mining facilities and 170 has. for residential and institutional use.

Eleven of the 23 graduates either had worked or have been working at the Geology and Exploration Division, of Philex Mining’s Padcal operations, in this province, while the rest hailed from the different villages of the company’s host municipalities of Tuba and Itogon.

“I congratulate the organizers of this academy, as well as the graduates for having participated in this training program,” Redempta Baluda, VP for Exploration at Philex Mining, said. “Dear graduates, do not stop learning; continuous learning will lead you to better life situations. Learning fulfills your dreams to having a successful life.”

Austin said, “Congratulations to those responsible in organizing and implementing this program, considering our continuing project to extend the mine life of Padcal [beyond 2022] because the chances of opening new sites in other areas are difficult. Thus, we need to continue exploring adjacent communities where people are already familiar with what a mine looks like.”

Luis, who was one of the brains behind GATA, said the program consisted of about 30 sessions that were completed in four months, with materials/booklets and snacks provided free of charge. A team of Philex Mining geologists, on the other hand, had administered the lectures and guided the field works done after office hours and during weekends also pro bono.

He also said that besides being well-equipped to work as geologic aides, the graduates who had learned, among other subjects, structural and geologic mapping, sampling procedures, and drilling could now serve as vehicles for the dissemination of information on Philex Mining’s ongoing exploration projects in their respective villages.

“We congratulate the graduates of this first batch of geologic-aide trainees composed of the dependents of company employees as well as those from the host towns of Tuba and Itogon,” said Aurora Dolipas, manager for Community Relations (ComRel) at Philex Mining’s gold-and-copper operations in Padcal, whose department provided the P209,600-budget for GATA through the Development of Mining Technology and Geosciences (DMTG). “ComRel is more than willing to be a partner in any exploration activities.”

DMTG, which provides for the pursuit and implementation of programs to develop the mining industry, is one of the company’s major programs on CSR, or corporate social responsibility. And as mandated by the mining-industry regulator, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), a government body under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), DMTG, the Social Development and Management Program (SDMP), and the Information, Education and Communications (IEC) campaign get an annual budget of 1.5 percent of a miner’s total operating costs in the previous year.

Dolipas earlier said P11 million had been set aside by Philex Mining for the 2017 DMTG; P16.6 million for IEC, which is tasked to disseminate information on the benefits derived by society from the mining industry; and P82.9 million for the SDMP, through which the company has implemented its community projects on health, education, livelihood, and public infrastructure.

Ulysses Wais, a community officer at ComRel who used to work as a geologic aide at the Geology and Exploration, took a refresher at GATA and said he looks forward to sharing the knowledge and experience he has acquired to his peers and neighbors in Tuba’s Brgy. Camp 3. “My experience as a dragger, hauler, core-checker, geologic logger, and, now, a community organizer will surely help me continue working in Philex Mining and with my community,” he stressed.

That is the challenge—how to involve the host and neighboring villages in community organizing, negotiations, and social-projects implementation—according to Austin. “I congratulate you, and be the models for the next batch of trainees,” he added, addressing GATA’s newly minted geologic aides, who are all at least high-school graduates.