Pwede talaga! RTNMC: Truly an epitome of responsible mining

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Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC), the oldest subsidiary of Nickel Asia Corporation (NAC), ran away with the Presidential Mineral Industry Environment (PMIEA) Award for surface mining operations, the third time it has done so.

The award was given during the recently concluded 65th Annual National Mine Safety and Environment Conference (ANMSEC) held at Camp John Hay in Baguio City.

RTNMC also bagged the Presidential awards twice previously, in 2002 and 2015.

Fellow NAC subsidiaries Hinatuan Mining Corporation (HMC), in Taganaan, Surigao del Norte) and Cagdianao Mining Corporation (CMC), in Cagdianao, Dinagat Island province, bagged the runner-up Platinum awards, also as repeat winners.

In 2016 HMC was given the Titanium award, and the Platinum in 2017. CMC, on the other hand, alternatingly bagged the Titanium award in 2015 and 2017 and the Platinum in 2016 prior to this year’s award.

The Presidential award conferred on RTNMC came on the heels of the visit by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A Cimatu to the Palawan site, where he exclaimed “PWEDE TALAGA!”, an apparent response to his predecessor who had remarked “PWEDE Pala!”, during her own visit to the operations in Barangay Rio Tuba, Bataraza, Palawan.

The November visit by Secretary Cimatu was a fulfillment of a long-desired chance to see for himself why RTNMC has become a standard for responsible mining not only in the Philippines but also in the region.

It should be recalled that a year ago, RTNMC won the first ASEAN Mineral Awards (AMA) for Best Practices in Mineral Mining category, chosen by the ASEAN Ministers on Minerals during their ministerial meeting in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, in November of 2017.

The AMA, a project of the Special task Force (STF) under the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Mineral (ASOMM), was established to honor mining companies in ASEAN countries for their contributions in the achievement of responsible and environment-friendly mining.

It recognizes contributions involving actual impacts on community development, human resource development, productivity and resource efficiency, and actual measures to address safety, health and environmental performance.

The ASEAN award came on the 40th anniversary of RTNMC’s first ore shipment to Japan, and the follow up winning of the Presidential Award during this year’s PMIEA reinforce what NAC Chairman Gerard Bruno referred to a year ago to as “the recognition of four decades of responsible mining that has been practiced at Rio Tuba.”

On the other hand, the PMIEA was first established in February 1997 under Executive Order No. 399 signed by then President Fidel V. Ramos to “promote the efficient management of the environment and ecology in the exploration, development and utilization of the country’s mineral resources.”

Seven years later, Executive Order no. 374 signed by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo re-established PMIEA “to stress the importance of sound environmental management and responsible mining practice.”

Categories of the award as established under EO 399 are the following: mineral exploration, quarry operation, surface mining operation, underground mining operation, mineral processing, and research and development.

EO 399 also created a Selection Committee to administer the annual search and selection of the qualified recipients of the award.

It also created a Secretariat under the Office of the Secretary, DENR, to provide technical and administrative support to the activities of the Selection Committee, with the Director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau as head of the secretariat, assisted by representatives from the Environmental Management Bureau and the Forest Management Bureau.

RTNMC began operations in the late 1960s but it was only in 1977 when shipment of ore to foreign customers began. The operations were buttressed by the opening of Coral Bay Nickel Corporation next door, the first high pressure acid leach (HPAL) nickel ore processing plant in the country which became the sole destination of RTNMC’s low grade limonite ore production.

Because of its location in one of the southernmost LGUs of Palawan, RTNMC could only grow in the 1960s and 1970s when a town site was built to house its employees and their families, mostly migrants from other parts of Palawan and the Philippines.

Over the years the town site not only grew, but became the catalyst for the growth of Barangay Rio Tuba that today is the most populous barangay in all of Mimaropa.

More importantly, Barangay Rio Tuba became the engine for growth for the host town of Bataraza which moved from being a forth class municipality to being the province’s richest LGU outside of Puerto Princesa city.

Over the years RTNMC has been a consistent finalist for the industry awards handed out at the the annual Mine Safety Conference.

In the years 2000 and 2001 it won the Platinum awards before bagging the PMIEA (or Presidential award) in 2002. In 2009 it won the Titanium award and the Platinum again in 2010. In 2011 it won the Mine Rehab Startegy special award. In 2013 and 2014 RTNMC bagged the Platinum award, before again being conferred the PMIEA in 2015.

Again in 2016 and 2017 it took home the Platinum award before once again being conferred the highest award, the PMIEA, this year