A 10-year career in community relations at OceanaGold’s Didipio Mine in the Philippines has turned into the operational role that local Didipian, Reynaldo Pugong Jr, has always dreamed of.

Having just graduated from university with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and living and working in Manila, Reynaldo Pugong Jr (known as Rey) received an urgent call from his mother telling him to come home to the barangay (village) where he was born – Didipio.

Thankfully, it wasn’t an emergency. Rey’s mum wanted him home because OceanaGold had started a process to re-open the Didipio Mine, which it acquired in 2006 through a merger with Climax Mining Ltd.

The company was recruiting a Community Relations Assistant to engage with the local community as part of the mine design and construction process, and being a local Didipian, Rey’s mum thought he would be the perfect candidate. She was right.

“It was an opportunity too good to refuse – working with a global miner in my hometown. Of course, I applied, and I was lucky enough to succeed,” Rey said.

And over the last 10 years, succeed is what Rey has done. Through learning on the job opportunities and close mentorship from his senior peers, Rey’s career has forged ahead at Didipio.

Rey was first was promoted in 2013 to a more senior role in the Community Relations Team and over the five years that followed, he contributed to developing and delivering the region’s first ever local capacity building program which included providing more than 10,000 hours of pre-employment training each year across the region. In the process, Rey developed invaluable and life-long relationships with residents in the host community of Didipio and in adjacent barangays.

“At OceanaGold, for those directly affected communities and stakeholders – those who are most impacted by our operations – we seek to obtain and sustain a broad base of support,” Rey said.

“Relationships take time to foster and I’m most proud of the sustained, mutual effort between our team and the broader community, including the local government, to get the Didipio Mine fully operational and producing by 2013.”

Marjorie Idio, Communications and External Affairs Superintendent and one of Rey’s mentors, agreed: “Rey understands Didipio in ways only a local can. His energy, determination, and passion for improving people’s lives was channelled into our programs that provided educational opportunities and built local capacity that otherwise wouldn’t have happened in this agricultural landscape,” she said.

“Rey is a team player and action-oriented, qualities we value at OceanaGold. So, while Rey worked to build the skills of people in the community, we worked with Rey on building his career.”

In 2017, Rey’s career path verged a little to the left as he started to explore the idea of moving into an operational role. With no technical experience, the company supported his career aspirations and developed him into an Operator at its paste backfill plant – the first of its kind in the Philippines.

Rey’s competence in the paste plant group was achieved though hands-on training, self-development, and close mentoring by his group leaders. Again, Rey’s steadfast determination and hard work paid off when he was promoted in 2018 to Paste Plant Supervisor.

Didipio’s People, Culture and Technology Manager, Vanessa Aliaga, said Rey’s valuable community relationships would greatly benefit his new operational role – and the company more broadly – as he was trained to consider the mine’s potential impacts, mitigations and most importantly, its legacy.

“The awareness and understanding gained from first-hand experience living and working in the community is invaluable when making operational decisions,” Vanessa said.

Now raising a family of his own in Didipio, Rey is determined to continue building leadership skills to foster his career growth at OceanaGold.

“Not long ago, through funding from OceanaGold, we supported the education of the first local mining engineer and the first geologist to be born right here in Didipio,” Rey said.

“If the mine continues operating here, the opportunities available to my children will be endless – as a father and a proud Didipian, that’s all I could ask for.”

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