Conquering the local mining industry
(The Philippine Star) - April 1, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Businesswoman Caroline Tanchay dreams big in life. This, after all, is a woman who made her first million as a teenager consigning imported goods to department stores in Metro Manila; survived a kidnapping incident when she was running a trucking business at age 25, switched industries throughout her career; and now runs several companies engaged in mining, oil refinery decommissioning and heavy equipment rental.

The diminutive president and chair of listed mining firm Oriental Peninsula Resources Group Inc. (ORE) is now burrowing deeper into the extractive industry, with big aspirations for two new nickel mines in southern Palawan and intentions of opening new mines in various parts of the country.

While at it, she’ll still be at the helm of her three other companies: Citimax Group Inc. which is engaged in commissioning and decommissioning works for oil refineries; Hardrock Aggregates Inc., a provider of aggregate products with a quarry plant in Antipolo; and Maxwell Heavy Equipment Corp which is engaged in sales and rental of heavy equipment such as cranes, boom trucks, and loaders. 

“I have a very strong passion for anything that is very challenging. I have so much passion in this industry because it’s a very hard industry,” she says in an interview in her home in Makati City. 

Tanchay, 44, sits primly, but talks animatedly. She had just returned from a business trip in Singapore which she describes as being a sort of a break from the rigors of running two mines that have only recently begun commercial operations.

“I sleep na nga lang three hours e, kasi our operations are 24 hours.  And I have to deliver pa income to shareholders,” she says.

The Toronto mine in the municipality of Narra commenced full operations in 2011, enabling ORE to rake in P467.37 million in net income for the year. The Pulot mine in the municipality of Sofronio, Espanola began commercial operations last year.

With two mines on stream, the holding company, she says, can be expected to declare higher earnings for 2012.

“Before we went there, there was nothing. In Espanola, before we came, people sat at their doorsteps from sunup until sundown,” she says. “In southern Palawan, back then, there were no resorts. There was black sand and the shoreline, mangroves.”

Tanchay said she was inspired to mine in the municipalities of Narra and Espanola by the charitable works of her late father-in-law, former lawmaker Sofronio Espanola.

“I have so many plans for the municipalities. I want for us to be able to increase their schools and health centers as well as the commerce. So that someday, maybe  in  five years, we can say that the communities  have been upgraded,” she says.

As the sole employer in the municipality of Espanola, Tanchay shares that she is sometimes pushed to the wall by demands from the community and the industry.

“When you’re a mining company, you get approached a lot. But you have limited resources and you can only help so much,” she says. “We’re very new and it’s  a challenge to bring the company to profitability. There is no other industry wherein you have to balance all of these at the same time. “

 â€œYou have to use a combination of strength, patience and understanding. You need to put yourself in their place all the time.”

ORE, at this point is one of the few mining companies in the country that remain Filipino-owned.

 â€œThere were many foreign investors who want to enter out company and we told them we want to keep it Filipino,” she says.

Tanchay shares that the company is working on expanding the lifespan of the existing mines through exploration. The company is also settling its sights on the opening of new nickel mines.

 â€œAnd that’s why we hope the government will support Filipino miners who really want to develop resources,” she says.








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