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Human resources in the mining industry
By Eric U. Pasigian
Mining has been prejudged as environmental destructive business and operation. Its core activity is the extraction and/or unearthing of minerals and metals from the earth.
In the Philippines copper and gold are the most sought after minerals by the mining operators and investors. Manganese, tantalum, cassiterite, tin, nickel, bauxite (aluminum ore), iron ore, silver, and diamonds are some of the minable minerals after gold and copper. Mining is a multimillion money making business. Not only do mining companies prosper, but also governments, workers, community and other stakeholders.
Mining is often found in the remote and far flung areas and often it does, mining becomes the mini-government of the community, assuming responsibilities for road, transport, power, water, communications and other infrastructure, health services, education and environmental protection. Integrated part of its program, corporate social responsibility is one of the pre-conditions for the operations to commence on such operation.
One of its key results areas is the development of the community by improving and introducing livelihood programs. It helps local farmers grow better crops and plantations. When the mining is over the company leaves the area in better shape than it was before.
Information Education Campaign being done prior to the operations of a mine often grouped into (a) community relations, (b) forest management, (c) water management, (d) mine life cycle, (e) and mine lay out including concerns that had emerged again and again.
Mining is operated in either large scale or small scale. Large scale mining usually involves a company with many employees. The company mines at one or two large sites and usually stays until the mineral or metal is completely excavated.
To date, there are some large scale mining operation in the Philippines in the likes of Lepanto Consolidated Mining in Mankayan Benguet, Philex Mining in Pacdal Benguet, TVI in Zamboanga Peninsula, DMCI in Masbate and others. Infrastructure Development had been introduced, local and national taxes have been flowing until now, economic community development has been seen. Small scale mining, on the other hand, usually involves a small group of nomadic men. They travel together and look for sites which they think will yield gold or another valuable metal or mineral. Some researchers believe that small scale mining is more harmful to the environment and causes more social problems than large scale mining (Hamilton-Paterson 1997).
Despite the economic development brought by mining operations there are a lot of risk that blocks its way. To name some, (a) political instability, (b) social instability including media scrutiny and peoples’ mindset, (c) lack of infrastructure, (d) the latest risk, which is dependence on China’s economy, (e) poor capital market and banking sector and (f) poor governance and regulation system (John Miller-Asia Miner 2010).
The most common and most hostile opposition to mining industry is the Roman Catholic Church adding the groups of people wanting their share of gold, some politicians, other groups with vested interest like NGO, and the easily instigated group of people.
Today’s mining company in the Philippines generally understands and practices all the elements of responsible mining not because it is mandated under the new mining act but because this is the right thing to do.
In a mineral resource rich but impoverished country like the Philippines, the mining industry will always be in the best position to be the catalyst for unlocking the wealth of the nation to free the Filipinos from the oppression of poverty and to help them build better lives for themselves and the future generations.
Mining Industry is known for its high paying scale though considered as one of the most dangerous industry to work with. Despite its perceived danger most of job seekers seek to be employed in the mining industry.
One reason is the best compensation and benefits program mining industry is implementing. The company’s good management of its compensation and benefits redounds to the strong social responsibility commitment that contributed to better management-employee relations, resulting in a considerable reduction in conflict and turnover statistics.
Employees normally remain working with the company, without considering establishing a union or affiliating to national union federation, because of their feeling that the company cares. Employee programs are very much effective in such a way that employees do not think of any insecurity and instead encouraged of an increase in productivity.
Mining company’s programs that address employee welfare usually instill a sense of pride in the people for being part of the company. With the almost extinction of trade unionism in the country because of the continuous decline in union membership and numbers of workers covered by CBA, it doesn’t make any sense at all since the company offer good employment condition. However, it is not an assurance to other workers that all mining company will do the same.
As practice to justify high paying scale most of the company is adopting a strict selection process based on skills, knowledge and experience. Some mining companies has been implementing a very successful compensation and benefits program.
They utilize regional salary and benefit surveys and internal grade comparisons to ensure that compensation packages are competitive. Employee planning and development and other comprehensive benefit options are also provided in addition to the compensation package. Some of them are (a) Annual Cash Incentives, (b) Restricted Stock Awards, (c) Stock Option and (d) Pension Plans.
In the Philippines, most of the mining companies motivates employees as major asset of the corporation. They conduct business and activities fairly, honestly and with due regard to the dignity and human rights of their employees, including the rights guaranteed by the labor laws.
It includes promotion of safety, nondiscrimination, environmental awareness and commitment in the workplace and support programs that promote the development and potential of employees. They also encourage transparency, professionalism and accountability among employees.
Most important is they demonstrate commitment to minimizing the impact of its activities to the environment and ensuring that activities do not adversely affect the health and safety of employees.
Prioritizing the host community in hiring is the most common practice and usually they provide salaries and benefits that exceed those of regional counterparts.
While the Company is committed to working towards enhancing the quality of life of employees and their families, it also expects them to have a strong awareness of social and environmental issues facing the industry, and to strictly adhere to high moral and ethical standards in the performance of their duties.
Maintaining motivation and high morale among employees is very challenging task considering that it becomes more daunting as the employees are away from families and working in the thick of constructing a mineral processing plant. Stress levels and homesickness, especially those who are not from the area, is very high.
However, by implementing the best compensation and management program to further improve the living and health conditions of members of its workforce enthusiasm and commitment is seen.
Despite the best efforts mining companies are adopting on its Human Resource and Corporate Social Responsibilities, there are a lot of issues that often times neglected which have been the target issues of anti-mining groups locally and internationally to advance their campaign against this industry. Let me name some of the issues:
1. HEALTH ISSUE – Data on health-related illnesses and disease in the mining industry are scarce, and information on rates and costs is not readily available. Miners are exposed to various potentially toxic or harmful materials or agents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2000) “There are many limitations on the accuracy of illness reporting.”
Defining what constitutes health or illness and what is an injury is sometimes confusing and often depends on what agency is reporting the data. Historically, many miners may not have been adequately instructed about the dangers of specific exposures and to the necessary safety precautions required to maintain their health.
One of the biggest problems in illness and disease in mining is reporting. A miner is aware of the disease or illness but sometimes afraid of reporting the disease because of fear of losing his or her job, health insurance, or other job-related benefits. The incident might have been reported and medical attention is received, but neither the attending physician nor the miner associates the disease with the work environment. Again, the disease or illness is not reported.
2. COMMUNITY RELATIONS – Mining companies have been accused of destroying farmlands, polluting water sources and degrading the physical environment. The industry is blamed for the ecological impoverishment of towns and villages.
It must be acknowledged that developing countries are still at a very low end of the environmental awareness curve. Environmental policies and requirements are now seriously being debated, formulated and implemented in many developing countries. In general, mining involves many risks common to all businesses, plus heavy doses of physical, political, climatic and geological risks that few industries face. The community should be involved in the environmental monitoring process to ensure that concerns for traditional activities are addressed.
3. EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY ISSUE –
(A) Feeling of superiority and invincibility of the local host. Mining operations is often found at the remote areas. Development is being brought to them. Job opportunities are being brought at the communities’ doorstep other than them coming to urbanized city and look for it. In that case most of the local communities are being ruled by feeling of superiority and invincibility. They don’t want to bargain and would just insist on their caprices.
(B) Prioritization of opportunities for the local host against those applicants from other places People in the host community or Barangay would always demand prioritization in all area of opportunities denying chances from other nearby places. Applicants from other places are always on second priority.
(C) Political intervention & harassment. Political intervention and harassment are very strong particularly in a locality controlled by a kingpin of clan or party. Oftentimes, some people are using political vendetta to advance personal interest.
(D) Succession planning is not that strong. Succession planning is not much given attention. Employee may come and go because the company doesn’t give attention to career development. It is because the nature of work is by phase. Thus, group of project employees for a particular phase of work would not fit the requirements for the next phase of work.
(E) Job mismatch. No enough Filipino experts. Sad to say, no enough Filipino talent would fit the requirements of the industry particularly on the technical side of works. This is the effect of poor HRD planning by the government. Universities and TESDA can’t produce enough Filipino manpower suited for the qualifications.
(A) Filipino rate is no match with the expat. Salary for the expatriate employees is far no match with the Filipino employees. This is one of the manifestations of unabated discrimination. However, on the other side the reason is because of the volatile forex. The amount of expat’s salary maybe huge in the country but when they go out the amount is minimal.
(B) Most sought after industry because of the perceived high paying scale. Because of the connotation of being “high paying” company, many job seekers want to join the industry even lacking with enough qualifications.
(C) Salary distortion – Salary distortion is rampant.
5. TRAINING & DEVELOPMENT – As discussed above there is no enough Filipino experts on the technical area of operations. This is the manifestation of poor planning by the government. There are no sustainable training programs offered by the TESDA. Universities and TESDA can’t produce enough Filipino manpower suited for the qualifications.
1. Government should have strong and decisive political will in regulating mining operations.
2. Government should set up standard compensation and benefits program that will be adopted by all mining operators.
3. Community and other stakeholders should be included in planning and be active to participate in managing corporate social responsibilities.
4. Mining concessionaires and the government should come up with a training program that would suit the manpower needs.
5. TESDA, CHED and DepEd should work hand in hand in planning manpower and training needs.
6. Political intervention and manipulation should be stopped. (end)