Hard Hats and Heels: the Fabulous Women in Mining (Philippines)

Published: 16/04/2014

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We hope to read more soon on Diwata’s great work

TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc. (TVIRD), 15/04/2014

On the heels of women’s month, DIWATA – Women in Resource Development Inc. sponsored the recent edition of the Philippine Mining Luncheon titled “Women as Game Changers in Resource Development” last 11 April 2014 at the Manila Polo Club.

During the event, Ms. Kathleen Digdigan shares her experience as TVIRD’s resource geologist.  Below are excerpts from her message:

“In my line of work, the usual industry pick-up line is: ‘What is a woman like you doing in an industry like this?’  I usually encounter this every time I declare that I am a geologist. And whenever people ask me this question, I would jokingly tell them it is because most men are already taking-up nursing! So I guess it is fair enough that women penetrate and excel in a previously male-dominated profession.

But seriously though, I chose to stay in this profession because in spite of being a woman, I found my place in the mining industry.

Early experiences

As a fresh graduate, it took a while before I convinced my boss to send me to the field. My first stint as a professional geologist was spent conducting grass roots exploration at TVIRD’s Tamarok Copper Project which is also located in Zamboanga del Norte.

At first, the senior guys on the team were not really comfortable in the company of lady geologists in the field, given all the safety and security concerns as well as risks present in Mindanao.  Now, TVIRD did not earn its safety recognitions for nothing.  On top of that, the company deeply values its female resource.

But apart from that, we cannot really blame the men for their discomfort.  Having female staff in the field meant having to construct separate wash rooms, separate bedrooms, taking more stopovers during travel, needing additional local staff to assist us in carrying rock samples and so on.

But despite all these, we were confident that we could perform at par with the men on the field due to our practical trainings during our years at the National Institute of Geological Sciences of the University of the Philippines.

While I do acknowledge the significant contribution of many great men to the mining industry, I also believe that women bring great value to the work place.  This value contribution is called ‘intuition.’  Female intuition combines forward-thinking, instinct and character with sympathy, consideration and a meticulous attention to detail.

Ladies and gentlemen, women bring a lot of ‘heart’ to the workplace.  And the men would have to admit that a little female intuition has kept them from making the wrong decisions whether on the job or out of it.

Changing the game

After acquiring skills from my stint in Laos, I requested to be hired back at TVIRD. I was then appointed Senior Mine Geologist during the company’s sulphide project in Canatuan.

Looking back, the Mines Department was driven by an all-female staff.  With me were two mining engineers, three mine geologists, a geodetic engineer and a GIS specialist – all of us women!

From as low as 11 percent recovery in the mill, we were able to increase the copper recovery to about 95 percent!  We were able to convert marginal ore to additional reserves through proper blending.  But most of all – and as a result of this – TVIRD was able to produce and meet its shipping requirement schedule.

We knew right then that we were not only breaking into a stereotypical man’s world.  We actually made it more fabulous!

The game HAS definitely changed and it is also largely because of girl power.

Changing court

Now what happens next when you start having kids?  Would you still conduct fieldwork? I asked myself these questions upon learning that I was expecting.  The game just got more interesting for me…

Nonetheless, and despite my changing role in life, I am still aware of how critical my job is.  I take my job as seriously as I take motherhood.  A mining project also needs to be molded, to be nurtured and cultivated in order for it to reach its potential.

This, my dear audience, is how a woman treats a project.  With a little foresight – and a lot of heart – women are able to change the game and change along with it.  Moreover, women are able to innovate and evolve in a progressive industry where the proverbial glass ceiling is a thing of the past.  Proof of this is our female CFO, Ms. Lily Ann Panelo, and our Vice President for Corporate Services, Ms. Yody Marzo, who is also a proud member of Diwata.

Today, as the industry faces various challenges, I consider myself fortunate to be part of this defining moment in our corporate history.

Back in Canatuan, as women played a vital role in the early days by institutionalizing genuine community engagements, women today continue to make good on a promise that TVIRD made close to 20 years ago – and that is to ensure the long-term sustainability of Canatuan in the years to come, especially for the indigenous Subanons to whose trust in TVIRD we dedicate our success.

Our women will continue to work hard to ensure this.  Our female environmentalists, chemists, community relations personnel, foresters, lawyers, accountants and other licensed professionals – and yes, we have a female Subanon nurse too – all of us will work hand-in-heart with our male colleagues to take our company and our industry even further into the 20th century.

Ladies and gentlemen, the mining industry’s future is going to be an interesting one.  And with women on board, I assure you…it’s going to be fabulous!”

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Diwata – Women in Resource Development, Inc., is a non-government organization advocating the responsible development of the Philippines’ wealth in resources, principally, through industries such as mining, oil and gas, quarrying, and other mineral resources from the earth for processing. 

More information on Diwata and how the organisation started in the article below

Cordillera women lead the way in mining

By Frank Cimatu, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Mining is one of the last bastions of masculinity. In Benguet province, for example, women are not allowed in “usok” (small mining tunnels). Miners are also not allowed to have sex three days before and after entering a new mine.

Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. in Mankayan town allowed women inside its mines only 20 years after it started operations. And yet women are in the forefront in softening mining’s hard image.

“We consider ourselves a platform for discussion,” says Patricia Bunye, president of

Diwata–Women in Resource Development Inc. (Diwata-WRD). “We’re a nonthreatening group. We want issues to be discussed in an intelligent manner.”

Diwata was founded by former Foreign Secretary Delia Albert who, when she was heading the Mining Development Council, realized that it was the women in the Cabinet who were active in promoting mining in the country.

On July 18, 2012 (the birthday of Albert’s favorite world leader, former South African President Nelson Mandela), Diwata was launched. The group is composed of women geologists, metallurgists, mining engineers, lawyers, indigenous peoples (IP) leaders and communication specialists.

“They felt strongly that they could share with the larger community and through dialogue their scientific knowledge, practical experience and even wisdom on issues they know pretty well. They believe that through constant learned exchange of ideas, they can contribute in bringing an understanding and hopefully an appreciation of efforts to make our resources serve our people,” Albert says.


Albert named the group after the “diwata” (nature spirit) to bring blessings to those who do beneficial things. She picked the common fern for a logo design after noticing ferns in most mining areas she had visited.

It launched forums during a yearlong period, particularly on the “Executive Order No. 79: The Indigenous Peoples and Women’s Views,” “Dialogue on Mining as a Means for Development” and “Bulong-Pulongan: Diwata Meets the Mining CEOs.”

It also held a “Geology 101” forum for students where top geologists, like Eliza Laudencia, Redempta Baluda, Rodelee Ofiaza and Maria Ines Rosana Balangue-Tarriela, talked about the different fields of geology and how women geologists toughened up with their male colleagues.

Diwata wants to hold a road show of its Geology 101 for Cordillera and Mindanao students so they would understand geology and mining, Bunye says.

After a dialogue with the indigenous women leaders, Diwata echoed its call for the government to include their assertion that their right to self-determination should be respected in the implementing rules and regulations of EO 79.

“We always try to agree and find the common grounds to those who oppose mining…. At the heart of it all, we want the country to develop,” says Bunye.

During the recent National Mine Safety and Environment Conference in Baguio City,

Diwata held a dialogue on the book, “Mining’s Dirty Dozen: The Legacy of the First Mining Engineering Graduates of the Philippines.”

The “Dirty Dozen” are the first Filipino mining engineers who graduated from Mapua Institute of Technology.

The authors, Zorayda Amelia Capistrano-Alonzo and Mercedes Balota-Suleik, talked about their fathers who belonged to the Dirty Dozen. Joining them was Edda Villaluna Henson of the Villaluna family, said to be the “royal family of Philippine mining.”

The three women talked about their lives with mining leaders and how they carved their own careers in the industry.

Link to article