Listening to community perspectives is strengthening social performance at the Didipio Mine in the Philippines.

“When we listen, we can better understand how our operations affect people’s everyday lives. When we listen, we find opportunities to improve our operational performance and work collaboratively to contribute to positive change in our host communities.” That’s the driver for OceanaGold’s social performance team, led by Executive Vice President Sustainability, Sharon Flynn.

In 2020, OceanaGold piloted a Social Change Assessment framework at the Didipio Mine in the Philippines. The Corporate External Affairs and Social Performance team and the Didipio Mine Communications and Community Relations team worked with Filipino and international experts in community development and social impact assessment to design a process to uncover how social and economic change was happening at Didipio. The process mapped local dynamics and identified how the mine is driving change in that context.

The process brought together information and analysis from previous social baselines and impact assessments, publicly available data, household level ethnographies, interviews and focus groups.

Social Performance Advisor, Danielle Crawford, said the most important part of the Social Change Assessment was listening to people’s stories.

“The Didipio Mine operates in a complex political and social context and it was important for us to hear the communities’ views on how the mine is changing their lives – what they are happy with and what they want improved,” Danielle said.

“It’s also important to acknowledge the past and what the company could have done differently, because as we all know, when you know better, you do better. Knowledge is a corporate value and very much part of our culture at OceanaGold, and part of our duty of care to the communities we operate in,” she said.

“The Social Change Assessment identified gaps, challenges, and solutions with the aim of improving how OceanaGold is managing the effects of its operations in host communities, and how the company can improve its contribution to the communities’ long-term resilience.”

“For example, while the mine has provided jobs and business opportunities locally, the mine cannot employ everyone, and direct employment opportunities will diminish at closure, so we are working with local groups to strengthen programs focused on non-mining livelihoods such as agriculture.”

“The assessment provided an opportunity to collect honest – and sometimes confronting – feedback that recognised unresolved legacy issues and identified opportunities to enhance our approach”

“For example, how various companies – OceanaGold and previous developers – have accessed land rights over the last 23 years, has created distrust and frustration amongst the community. The Didipio team is working to reconstruct past land access processes to identify what happened and how the process has affected livelihoods today.”

The second phase of the Social Change Assessment involved land mapping. The Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining at the University of Queensland, and the Malaysian branch of the University of Nottingham, used publicly available landsat data to map how land use has changed over time. Land use change was then overlaid with increased infrastructure, local demographics, urban expansion and other social and economic data to get a clearer picture of how the mine has been a driver of change.

OceanaGold is currently working productively and collaboratively with key stakeholders to share the results of the assessment and implement new plans to better manage the mine’s local effects as soon as the operation’s Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) is renewed.

The Didipio Mine’s Community Relations and Development Manager, Nericel Langres, said the community participants involved in the assessment also gave feedback to the company on how it could improve its engagement overall.

“We recognise we need to shift from a prescriptive engagement approach to one that is more participatory and inclusive, with increased transparency, to better understand the views and perspectives of the community,” Nericel said.

“Long-term, the company’s objective is to gain sustained stakeholder support through wider benefit sharing, improved relationships with more inclusive engagement, work to resolve legacy issues, and fully integrating social impacts management into operations,” she said.

On the ground, Community Development and Management System Superintendent, Bonifacio Labatos Jr (known as Hero), coordinates social data analysis at the mine and has seen first-hand the benefits that responsible mining can bring to remote communities, and is eager to deliver strategies that provide long-lasting benefits.

“There is huge potential for Didipio to become a viable agri-tourism destination and of course, this will contribute significantly to the long-term food security for the region,” Hero said.

“We have worked in partnership with individual farmers and co-operatives and will continue to contribute to the long-term vision by supporting programs that build local capability and capacity,” he said.

“We have also partnered with the community to directly support education, health and sanitation, road infrastructure and livelihood opportunities. And we will strive to improve engagement and support for adjacent communities moving forward.”

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