MOTHERS will do everything to ensure a bright future for their children.
Ofelia Magastino of Didipio village in the upland town of Kasibu in Nueva Vizcaya, in her middle age took on a job unusual for women in her village where women take care of the needs of their children at home and do some gardening.
She had been a heavy truck driver, now she works underground in her village in a Philippine government project managed by an Australian mining contractor.
”I used to work as a hundred-tonner driver for a local contractor in Didipio. I decided to apply for the Underground Mining Work Readiness Course at Site Skills Training [SST] because I needed a secure job to support my family,” Magastino said.
With her background in heavy equipment, she said OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI) chose her to be one of the 10 candidates to undergo the three-month training in Clark, Pampanga.
”It was challenging because I also had to do the same tasks as my male colleagues. But, it was even harder because I was away from my children. I persevered because I knew that the training will help me ensure a bright future for them,” she said.
As far back as 2013, OceanaGold was already preparing for its underground operations and needed to train at least 150 underground miners. It was programmed so that the company’s Didipio village-hosted copper and gold project will go completely underground when its surface mining ends in 2017.
Since there was no training school and facility in the country where students can be trained in underground mining, OceanaGold collaborated with SST. In 2015, it opened its $2-million underground metalliferous mining simulator in Clark.
SST is part of Site Group International (SGI), a registered training organization under the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA).
Magastino is part of the 5th Batch that completed the SST underground mining work readiness course designed around classroom theory and practical exercises that are conducted in SST’s immersive underground mine training environment.
”It is difficult to be a mother and a miner at the same time, but I know I can do it,” Magastino said.
She has been separated from her husband since 2010. The father of her children does not have a job and she has been solely taking care of her family’s financial needs.
Her children – ages 21, 19 and 12 – she said, “are old enough to take care of themselves, but we always take the time to eat dinner together in our rented home in Didipio.”
She said female trainees are honed in the parameters of mining in exactly the same way as the males. Their training includes health, safety and environment (HSE) awareness, heavy vehicle operations, service works and soft skills
Magastino said she has learned how to manage her time and “I learned that I am also capable of working in the underground mine, which I thought only men can do.”
”Ultimately, the training helped me gain confidence about what I can do as a woman in the mining industry,” she said.
Chito Gozar, OceanaGold’s senior vice president for communications and external affairs, said their hundreds of students have undergone three to four months training at SST Clark with the highest international standard in underground mining.
“We believe that this fairly new development in the mining industry will produce highly skilled mining professionals in the Philippines,” Gozar said.