Mines race to inoculate workers vs. COVID-19 | Inquirer News

Mines race to inoculate workers vs. COVID-19

/ 04:30 AM November 29, 2021

MASKED As soon as the coronavirus pandemic was declared in 2020, all of the country’s mines, including Philex Mining Corp. in Benguet, shut down their camps, sanitized their equipment and had employees tested before keeping a skeleton crew inside the mine sites for weeks at a time so operations could continue without transmitting the virus. —EV ESPIRITU

BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — The country’s mining industry is in the middle of an aggressive inoculation drive against COVID-19 and is pulling out all the stops to convince unvaccinated employees about its impact on the health of fellow miners and their respective communities, according to company officials in this year’s annual mine safety and environment conference held on Friday.

Many companies, particularly those in the Cordillera, are currently struggling with workers who have yet to take the vaccines due to religious concerns, said Salvador “Butch” Mendizabal, head of communications at Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp. in Itogon, Benguet province.


“But we have vaccinated 600 of our 1,400 workers,” he said.


OceanaGold Philippines has made arrangements with health experts to speak with the religious pastors of employees who have reservations about the jab, said Joan Adaci-Cattiling, OceanaGold president and general manager for business services, at the Nov. 26 virtual mining symposium.

OceanaGold, which operates the Didipio mine located across Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces, has inoculated 54 percent of over 1,000 employees, she said.

Philex Mining Corp., which operates the Padcal mine in Benguet, has vaccinated 93 percent of its employees, said Dr. Mariele Ventenilla, the company’s medical department head.

All mining companies absorbed the full impact of the pandemic, which affected operations, and have been racing to inoculate their manpower to reclaim some sense of normalcy, she said.

Although mining companies like OceanaGold were “running out of time” to get most if not all of its workers immunized, some people need time to observe how vaccines work and “don’t want to be rushed,” Cattiling said.

“COVID-19 is really new for us all. Like the government, we were testing what worked and what doesn’t work,” she said.

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