Artisanal Gold Council’s planetGOLD projects in Mongolia and the Philippines held their second combined Project Steering Committee meeting in Manila on Sept. 22-23, 2022.
The two projects are funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and executed by the AGC.
The meeting provided an excellent opportunity for stakeholders and delegates to share experiences and report on the overall progress of the projects as they head into the final 15 months scheduled for the programme.
“We had a chance to refocus objectives as we move into the post-Covid phase of the programme, past the various restrictions imposed during the pandemic,” said AGC’s Mongolia Project Manager Roger Tissot, who chaired the meeting along with Anil Bruce Sookdeo, a Chemicals and Waste Coordinator and Senior Environmental Specialist, Programs Unit, with GEF. “Stakeholders praised the importance of each project for their countries,” Tissot added.
Many delegates, stakeholders and staff were attending the meeting with a freshly updated perspective on the state of select projects in Mongolia and the Philippines. The Mongolian delegation and planetGOLD Mongolia Project Steering Committee, led by Mongolia’s Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Mr. Tuvdendorj Gantumur, traveled to the Philippines and visited the Paracale project in Camarines Norte province. Along with their peers on the planetGOLD Philippines Project Steering Committee, they inspected mining operations and viewed the ongoing development of the Mercury Free Processing System which has taken impressive steps towards its completion in early 2023.
Most of those who attended the PSC meeting also took part in the site visit, which included meetings with the Paracale City Council and the Governor of Camarines Norte province, Ricarte R. Padilla. The site visit itself was a considerable logistical accomplishment, including a quick flight from Manila, a two-hour drive past Paracale followed by a four-wheel drive adventure through challenging conditions and hike to the site.
Back in Manila, AGC’s Tissot kicked off the PSC meeting with an enthusiastic welcome to the delegates. The Philippines PSC Chair and Undersecretary to the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Mr. Jonas Leones, was up next with a warm welcome to his country for the Mongolian delegation.
In his opening address, GEF’s Mr. Sookdeo noted that the planetGOLD program is the first GEF program that endeavours to unlock finance for the ASGM sector for a more sustainable path towards eliminating the use of mercury and improving the livelihoods of the miners.
UNEP Portfolio Manager Mr. Ludovic Bernaudat reassured the Philippines and Mongolia teams that they will always have the support of UNEP and its partners on this project. “You’re not alone. You’re supported by the UNEP, by UNIDO, by AGC, but also by the groups in the program that can provide valuable information,” Mr. Bernaudat said. He emphasized that having key partners such as the National Bank of Mongolia is crucial, especially in working toward access to markets and access to finance.
He capped off his welcome address by emphasizing the importance of country ownership in the project and to be able to show the other countries what they can learn from the success of Mongolia and the Philippines.
Mr. Jerome Stucki, Chief, Chemicals & Materials Management Division, Environment Department UNIDO accompanied the planetGOLD and AGC teams on the site visit in Paracale. His message celebrated the importance of the face-to-face meeting after two years of forced remote interaction. “We are here in person. After two years of pandemic, it’s such a luxury,” Mr. Stucki said, adding how valuable the Paracale site visit had been for him.
National project managers Mr. Altanbagana Bayarsaikhan (Mongolia) and Ms. Abigail Ocate (Philippines) also provided significant updates on the status of their respective projects.
Mr. Bayarsaikhan summed up the planetGOLD Mongolia update with the project’s main challenges and key achievements. The challenges include uncertainty over ASM policy and the shifting legal environment; change in government due to elections, and; the lingering effects of COVID-19 pandemic, including travel restrictions, delays in training sessions, meetings, events and equipment importation and infected team members. Key achievements included the production of thematic reports with important data and information to assist with policy making; development of six training modules for miners; increased capacity building for miners and government officials; new technology for processing plants and partnerships, and; increased stakeholder engagement in ASGM.
Ms. Ocate outlined the status of the planetGOLD projects in the Philippines – Paracale and Sagada – and some of the project’s innovations and best practices. These included the significant development of the Mercury Free Processing System’s (MFPS) technical design; creation of a core group of trainers from the Philippine Government’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau, and; piloting a reduced Cyanide leaching technology using amino acids.
Mr. Tuvdendorj Gantumur, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment and Tourism Mongolia, and planetGOLD Mongolia PSC Chair revealed a significant development in Mongolia with the recent passage of legislation that will facilitate and encourage the formalization process for ASGM miners.
Deputy Minister Gantumur also expressed his gratitude to the Philippines team for hosting the meeting and thanked them for the Paracale site visit, especially the tour of the mercury-free processing plant and related technology. “We believe that for the remaining period of the project together we can reach our common goals,” he added.
Philippines Project Manager Mr. Douglas Kao outlined the planetGOLD Philippines 2023 work plan according to the four project components, emphasizing the installation and eventual commissioning of the MFPS in Paracale.
Mongolian Project Manager Mr. Tissot also discussed the work plan for Mongolia and touched on key objectives for the project in 2023. These included raising awareness of new ASM regulations enroute to increased formalization; further development of the MFPS and a proposed exit plan upon completion of the project.
AGC Executive Director Dr. Kevin Telmer joined the meeting via video conference and discussed the importance of “creating a business infrastructure that the investment community is familiar with to provide them the opportunity to invest.”
This infrastructure includes: finances and a bank account; a corporate structure with leadership and an understanding of how that business will be administered, and; management – including its capabilities, qualities, education, and previous experience. “A business infrastructure that is investable is a very powerful way of having a sustainable presence and a continuing improvement to the sector,” Dr. Telmer said.