Miner sets aside digging, turns to planting cacao
After years of digging for gold, copper and zinc, employees of TVI Resources Development Philippines Inc. (TVIRD), the local affiliate of Canadian miner TVI Pacific Inc., will return a favor to the land by planting cacao.
TVIRD, through its subsidiary TVI Agriproducts Inc., recently signed a partnership deal with Kennemer Foods Inc., a supplier of US-based Mars Chocolate, to turn about 1,600 hectares of land near mining sites into cacao plantations in the next four years.
Before the company winds up operations at the 500-hectare Canatuan mine in Siocon, Zamboanga del Sur, its subsidiary will establish a cacao plantation near the mining site, which is part of the 8,000-hectare ancestral domain of the Subanon tribe, says Renne Subido, TVIRD vice president for corporate social commitments.
The agribusiness subsidiary has been created solely for the joint agricultural enterprise to sustain company workers and those who directly benefit from the mine as operations draw to a close in the last quarter of 2013.
According to company geologists, the ore content at the Canatuan mine will be depleted before 2014.
“This is a livelihood which we want to become industrial-scale. We are putting our resources to make sure that the income streams steadily go to the community,” Subido says.
The 50-50 partnership with Kennemer includes contract-growing agreements with small farmers, technology and knowledge transfer, and capital investments for infrastructure and equipment, according to Subido.
A memorandum of understanding with Kennemer was signed at TVIRD’s Makati headquarters.
Under the agreement, landholdings will be consolidated either through lease or revenue-sharing agreements with individual farmers, lot owners and recognized indigenous peoples’ communities.
Each plantation will have a consolidated area of no less than 100 hectares. The landowners, according to TVIRD, will get 4 percent of the total revenue based on the farmgate prices of commodities, most of which are for export.
Kaycee Crisostomo, spokesperson for TVIRD, says that other crops used to be planted on the property. But it will be easy for the company to convert the land into cacao plantations.
Cacao, according to the Department of Agriculture, is a cash crop. Its trees, which can grow in just a year and a half, can bear beans all year round.
Each hectare of land can accommodate 500 trees. It takes two to three people to tend to each hectare. That means, for each hectare, two to three people can enjoy the fruits of their labor.
TVIRD said the project can generate close to 1,300 jobs for the local community while its 400 workers will be absorbed in the joint-venture company.
If wages were to be combined, the project could generate P100 million annually.
Although there is no estimate yet on the capital expenditure, the two companies will need to spend for road construction, post-harvest facilities, buying stations, transport, as well as storage facilities, Crisostomo says.
Eugene Mateo, president of TVIRD, says the joint enterprise will be one proof that agriculture and mining can be done side by side.
“Agribusiness is the natural direction given the geographic composition of the area. This is a testament that mining, agriculture and other revenue-generated enterprises like tourism can coexist and actually support each other,” Mateo explains.
TVIRD, the first company to operate under the Mining Act of 1995, ramped up its operations in 2004. In the last eight years, the company contributed around P724 million to the communities and the local government unit of Siocon through excise and real property taxes, business permits and royalties to the indigenous communities.
“We know that mining is not there forever. But we want to make sure that we are leaving the communities capable of standing on their own feet,” Crisostomo said.
TVIRD still has mining sites in Bayog in Zamboanga del Sur, and in Agusan del Norte.
Although company officials have announced that they will be closing the Canatuan mine, operations at the site still continues.
TVIRD wishes to expand its Mineral Production Sharing Agreement coverage to areas northeast of their Canatuan mine, which are believed to be rich in copper and zinc.
The request to expand operations is still pending with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.