The Philippines’ mining community has joined forces to help the nation recover from the heavy losses caused by Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded. The typhoon, known locally as Yolanda, battered the country on November 8, particularly the central islands, and has left an estimated 10,000 people dead and impacted millions.
Many mining companies operating in the Philippines have sent teams of workers to assist in rescue and recovery efforts while teams from members of the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA) are also assisting, primarily in Tacloban City, capital of Leyte province, barely a month after helping in search and rescue operations in Bohol and the Visayas that were hit by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake.
Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) president Benjamin Philip G Romualdez, a native of Tacloban, said Leyte was “devastated by the worst storm ever in the world” and called on the public to help rebuild the city, the province and all areas affected by what he said was “the Philippines’ worst calamity.”
Tacloban and Leyte “needs all the help to rebuild,” said Philip Romualdez, also president of Benguet Corp. “There is enough food on the way; the issue will be rebuilding. It needs heavy equipment and people to help rebuild, as 90% of the residents are left with nothing.”
The COMP president said even his cousin, Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, “left his totally devastated home with only the shirt on his back” as a team led by Interior Secretary Mar Roxas rescued him.
PMSEA, also a member of COMP, dispatched its Pusong Minero teams to Tacloban to work with volunteer organizations, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), and other local and national government authorities.
Glencore Xstrata suffered heavy structural damage at its Pasar copper smelter and refinery. The company began to shut down the smelter a day before the super typhoon hit the country. A company spokesman said: “Initial assessments confirm that Pasar has sustained heavy structural damage to its operations.” Glencore has estimated that a return to normal operations could take at least four to six weeks.
Red Mountain Mining’s Batangas Gold Project was not significantly impacted by the typhoon, which was worst in areas to the south of southern Luzon. Medusa Mining also advised that its Co-O operations in Central East Mindanao were not affected.
OceanaGold’s managing director and CEO Mick Wilkes said: “The latest typhoon is certainly a very sad event and we are concerned for the people in the Philippines and sympathise with their loss. We are doing everything we can on the ground to assist with the recovery effort, including sending our Didipio Emergency Response Team, along with other mining companies, and by contributing to aid in particular to the UNICEF Childrens’ Emergency Appeal.
“The typhoon was well south of Manila whereas Didipio is in northern Luzon, about 250km north of Manila. Thankfully, there was no threat to the safety of our staff in Manila or at the operation or to production.”
A Mindoro Resources spokesman said: “Like the rest of the world, Mindoro is shocked at the devastation and human cost and suffering caused by Typhoon Haiyan and expresses its deep sympathy to all affected. Typhoon Haiyan passed directly over Pan de Azucar Island, northeast Panay Island, where the company is in joint venture with TVI Pacific. Company staff members were unscathed, with some damage to camp facilities.
“However, damage to the island was extensive with houses and food stocks destroyed and fishing boats, a mainstay of the local economy, washed away. Mindoro immediately provided emergency funds and organized food supplies to the island. The company will be participating with TVI Pacific and working with Local Government Units in relief efforts to assist the community to recover from the devastation.
“The central track of the typhoon passed about 200km to the north of the Mindoro/TVI Pacific Agata project in the province of Agusan del Norte, Mindanao. Minor damage was sustained at Agata, mainly to roads.”
The eye of Haiyan passed about 100km south of Masbate Island, where B2Gold’s Masbate mine is located. B2Gold says emergency response preparations at the mine were under way well before the onset of the storm to ensure the mine infrastructure was well protected and that employees had access to safe shelters. As a consequence, the company says there was no significant impact on the operations with all infrastructure and services remaining fully functional, including the supply chain.
The Masbate mine also supported its surrounding communities to mitigate the impact of the storm. Evacuation centres were identified and utilized - some were buildings constructed by the mine's social development fund in previous years. The company also made its Emergency Response Team available to the Philippine relief effort. The island of Masbate was not without impact but it fared much better than other locations in the Philippines.
B2Gold has committed to supporting the immediate rescue and relief efforts as well as the later phase of rebuild and rehabilitation. It has donated $1,000,000 towards supporting these efforts.