Meet the Sulphide Project team


Real people with real stories of dedication and sacrifice

The music band was wrapping up its last piece when Rudolfo Lupo cleared his throat to prepare for his speech. His colleagues at the mining firm operating in the remote mountains of Zamboanga del Norte gave a party in his honor at the company clubhouse. It was the eve of his 64th birthday, and he seemed to be the happiest man in the room. Yet his lips quivered a bit as he spoke to thank his well-wishers, betraying a certain sadness. For the first time in 37 years, he was celebrating his birthday without his wife, Leonila, who takes care of their family back home in Compostela, Cebu.

Fondly referred to as “Tatay” (Filipino for “father” or “respected elderly man”) by his peers, Lupo is part of the Sulphide Project construction team of TVI Resource Development Philippines, Inc. (TVIRD) whose members have had to make personal sacrifices to ensure that the copper-zinc plant, the dam and other support facilities they are building in Canatuan, a Subanon ancestral domain within Siocon town in Southern Philippines, remain on schedule. (See related Blog item: “A dedicated, competent bunch” here)

The TVIRD Sulphide Project Team. Only good things can happen to this dedicated, selfless, and competent bunch.

Tatay Lupo, an accomplished mechanical engineer with vast experience in the fitting and fabrication of mining equipment, is senior supervisor at the Mill Maintenance Department. He has been appointed main man in crusher circuit installation, an important component of the milling process for the company’s second phase of operations here.

Now in a critical stage of construction, the company can afford to make few mistakes. The designs are strictly implemented according to specifications, requiring direct and meticulous supervision. Also at this stage, many bittersweet memories are being made, and stories told, by project team members, mainly Filipinos known for their sentimentality.

Rodolfo Lupo (left) poses with Ely Valmores at the crusher circuit, whose installation Lupo personally supervised. “I am pouring all my time and putting to use all my professional experience for the success of this Project.”

“In our nearly four decades of marriage, this is the first time that I celebrated my birthday away from my wife,” Tatay Lupo says during a break at the top of the feed conveyor being constructed. “It’s hard for me, but it just has to be this way because I’ve made a commitment to finish the Project efficiently and within the specified time frame. I am pouring all my time and putting to use all my professional experience for the success of this Project.”

Then his faced brightened, as he began counting days on his fingers: “We just have to catch up on what we missed, Leonila and I, during my three-day staff leave for her birthday this September and a Hong Kong trip in December!”

Larry Gingo, on the other hand, has different reasons for staying focused on his job. Fresh from a stint in the deserts of the Middle East as a contract worker and nursing “hurt emotions” (on which did not elaborate), he joined TVIRD to learn the ropes in the mining industry and, at the same time, to do some “soul searching” in a new environment. A civil engineer by profession, Gingo was hired as a cost engineer for the individual structures of the complex Sulphide Plant. And like Tatay Lupo, he has his share of sacrifices for the Project.

Sulphide Project cost engineer Larry Gingo (left), hams it up with maintenance supervisor Emmanuel Elimanco. “TVIRD has a strong leadership and we have a solid team working side by side.”

“I turned down a lucrative offer to work again in the Middle East. It was not easy for me,” he relates. “But as I weighed things over, it turned out that joining TVIRD was more appealing. The company offers a broader exposure for my profession. Eventually, I have come to love the people I work with. TVIRD has a strong leadership and we have a solid team working side by side. This was proven during the concrete-pouring of the primary ball mill foundation at the height of a typhoon. The team never wavered and completed the job within schedule.

“Due to the extensive work needed for the construction of the plant and the dam, there is no room for a lost day. And vacations can wait!” Gingo adds while sharing an early breakfast with fellow employees on his 88th straight day at the site.

Alfredo Gonzaga (in white hat) and his crew at the Electrical Department. He has rejected a juicy offer to work abroad and has been spending longer hours at work because he wants to complete the Project according to plan.

Alfredo Gonzaga, Electrical Department superintendent, also had a juicy offer to work abroad but he instead opted to stay with TVIRD. He has been spending longer hours than expected seeing to it that all the Project’s electrical requirements are met. He has had his share of cancelled or shortened vacation leaves, too. But for Gonzaga, all these and more come with the territory. What drives him is the excitement over the prospects of being able to complete the Project according to plan.

Resident metallurgical consultant Oscar Plata (extreme left) brings extensive experience in other mining companies to the Suphide Project: “I envision yet another successful mining operation for TVIRD.”

Oscar Plata, resident metallurgical consultant brings his extensive experience in other mining companies to the Project: “I see to it that all the specifications in the purchases of equipment are strictly followed and that the process is not done by way of shortcuts. In close coordination with concerned departments, I envision yet another successful mining operation for TVIRD,” he says. As of this writing, Plata is in Canada, away from his family, to make sure that equipment the company has just purchased as part of the Project will arrive onsite in time and good order.

Dam builder. Ed Nercuit oversees the construction of the world-class Sulphide Dam. He feels the same pride he felt when he led the building of the Gossan Dam.

Civil Engineering Services manager Ed Nercuit has been connected with TVIRD since 2001, three years before the company’s first phase of operations – the Gossan (gold-silver) phase – in Canatuan. A Siocon native, Nercuit takes pride in his current task of supervising the construction of the Sulphide Dam, a structure designed and engineered following world-class standards; the same pride he felt when he spearheaded the building of the Gossan Dam.

Nercuit said he will never forget the sleepless nights he had during the early stages of the Sulphide Dam construction, when one day in July 2007, an unusually heavy rain event caused soil erosion on the downstream portion of the yet unfinished dam. Fortunately there were no significant or sustained damages. The incident became a cause celebre after some groups reported that the entire dam had collapsed – apparently a product of a disinformation campaign. Philippine government environment officials and of Zamboanga del Norte legislators who went to the site to inspect the dam saw for themselves that the reports were unfounded (Please see related story “TVIRD demonstrates responsible mining to Zambo Norte gov’t”

The eroded portion of the dam has since been repaired and construction of this copper-zinc tailings impoundment facility is back on track, and in fact is ahead of schedule. Nercuit, however, has become doubly alert whenever it rains hard in Canatuan, which often prevents him from sleeping until the wee hours of the morning.

The “Miss-Chiefs” (from left) Ayra Guillermo, Deyn Sandiko, and Maira Gulinao. The first two plays the guitar before they sleep; the last one sleeps before finishing a song.

Two women mining engineers complement Nercuit in ensuring that the Sulphide Dam design and engineering specifications are strictly followed. Ayra Guillermo and Deyn Sandiko of the Mine Department work on implementing the dam spillway plan and in monitoring the actual work progress, respectively. Both music lovers, the long hours on the job can’t stop Guillermo and Sandiko from strumming their exhaustion away with their guitars at night. When she’s too tired to play, Guillermo, sleeps on her bed with her guitar beside her. Sandiko, on the other hand, sings her heart out to relax until she dozes off to fantasies of love and glamour. The Project cost controller considers herself one of the “boys”, collectively known as “Barako” (Filipino term for “wild boar”), a group of friends composed mainly of Mine Department personnel.

Another woman, a geodetic engineer, completes the triumvirate of distaff chiefs – or “miss-chiefs”, as Yulo Perez, TVIRD vice president for Philippine Operations, jokingly refers to them – of the Sulphide Project. Maira Gulinao feeds the design elevation data to dam surveyors for the construction supervisors to implement, and checks the proper alignment of structures. After a day’s work, she spends her time reading novels or writing poems to relieve her of the stress of working long hours at the office and on the field. At times, she sings with the other miss-chiefs but rarely finishes a song awake — she sleep-sings!

City boy in the mountains. Paolo Dizon, cost accountaint, left his comfort zone in Manila for love of work. “It’s like staying at the other side of the world (but) I have no regrets.”

Cost accountant Paolo Dizon, for his part, left his comfort zone in Manila, for love of work. He wants to see the Project done within budget. Dizon spends six weeks at a time in these hinterlands and then takes a two-week staff leave in between for the duration of the project.

“Honestly, I initially had a difficult time adjusting to this arrangement since I am used to the urban lifestyle,” he says. “I left all the comforts of home to be here and to see this project become a reality. It’s like staying at the other side of the world! On my first week here, I bawled once at the clubhouse in front of other employees. I literally cried myself to sleep! But because of the people I work with, I eventually learned to adjust. I have no regrets now. I can even hone my singing skills more often with my newfound friends.”

The other half of the Sulphide Team are the point men from the Mill Maintenance Department. Headed by Maintenance manager Ely Valmores, this group has demonstrated versatility at its best. From being confined primarily to performing maintenance functions, his group has become fabricators, transporters and men-in-charge of mill plant structures installation.

Ely Valmores (in vest) confers with engineers Deyn Sandiko (in blue) and Ayra Guillermo (far right), and Community Relations and Development Office manager Thess Limpin (in white). “We have all the opportunity to prove our true worth to the company (because of the Sulphide Project),” he says.

“Being part of the Sulphide Project is quite challenging and interesting for us,” Valmores avers. “We have all the opportunity to prove our true worth to the company; to show that we are capable of doing more complex work other than maintaining plant equipment.”

Maintenance supervisor Emmanuelle Elimanco had to stay in Cebu City for almost five months to search for parts needed to complete the new ball mill. After all the necessary parts had been purchased, Dodong spent 36 hours on the road to transport the goods from Cebu City to Canatuan. Seeing the Sulphide Project progressing every day, he says, gives him great pride.

(From left to right) Celestino Panares, Emmanuel Elimanco, and Larry Gingo. They believe that the cooperation of everyone in the team and the all-out support of management can only guarantee success for the Project.

For Celestino Panares, maintenance superintendent, installing new setups for the ball mill foundation is a great challenge and experience. This, for him, proves that devotion to work and sharing of skills among the group can go a long way in getting things done. He believes that the cooperation of everyone in the team and the all-out support of TVIRD management can only guarantee success for the Project.

Danilo Halago (in blue) and Jersome Maranga. Preparing plans and designs at break-neck speed requires long hours of work.

Danilo Halago and Jersome Maranga, Maintenance supervisor and planner, respectively, share Panares’ views. To be able to prepare plans and designs at break-neck speed requires long hours of work and of constant exchange of ideas and sharing of skills – and less time with their respective families.

Proper coordination and full cooperation, says Civil Works consultant Louie dela Cruz, are making things happen for the Sulphide Project. He is confident that only good things can happen, given the dedication and selflessness that team members have shown.

The Sulphide Project has indeed come a long way since construction activities were initiated. TVIRD expects to start producing copper and zinc concentrates within the last quarter of 2008. And, as in the Gossan Project, where the men and women of TVIRD gave their share of sacrifices to ensure the overall success and socio-economic development for its Subanon hosts and the Filipino nation, the Sulphide Project strives to be another success story, waiting to be told by real people with real stories to tell. The saga continues…(Rene Patangan)