OMA member Agnico-Eagle puts some teeth into health and education initiatives in Mexico

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

Ontario Mining Association member Agnico-Eagle Mines is engaged in a number of ongoing health and education programs in communities near its Mexican operation.  The company’s Pinos Altos mine is located 220 kilometres west of Chihuahua in northern Mexico.  At an elevation of more than 2,000 metres, the mine, which has 972 employees and another 127 contractor employees on site, is near the town of Cahuisori and the smaller more isolated communities of Jesus del Monte and La Bateria.

“Our community relations team has developed a proactive community relations program that strives to support the local communities in the areas of greatest need,” said Dale Coffin, Corporate Director Communications for Agnico-Eagle.  “We believe that initiatives should come from the community because they stand a better chance of being carried forward in the future.” 

One program involves the organization of local dental clinics through the assistance of dentists from the University of Chihuahua.  This initiative, which brings dental service to people’s doorsteps, provides local residents with free check-ups, x-rays, extractions and treatment.  In 2010, four clinics provided service for about 360 patients in their own communities.

In addition, mine site medical personnel at Pinos Altos provide open clinics and supply medicines to these clinics.  The mine’s emergency response teams, fire brigades, paramedics and doctors also offer their expertise in the local towns.

On the education front, the Pinos Altos operation renovated classrooms, donated sports equipment, materials and kitchen appliances and implemented environmental training programs in a number of schools.  The company helped improve the education infrastructure in several relatively isolated and small mountain communities, which are far off the beaten track from Mexican tourist attractions and resorts – Cahusori, Jesus del Monte, La Bateria, Yepachi, Basaseachi, Huajumar, Las Estrellas, El Perico and Gasachi.  

Through these education initiatives of Agnico-Eagle, which contributed to the Mexican government’s Quality Education Program, nine schools’s facilities were upgraded and a further 82 students received scholarships from the company.  The goal of these activities is to motivate students to stay in school and obtain professional and technical qualifications.

At Pinos Altos, 99% of the employees are Mexican of which 63% are from the local area.  In 2009 and again in 2010, the company received recognition from the Mexican government as an equal-opportunity employer for providing equality of women’s rights in the workplace.  Approximately 69% of the mine’s expenditures go to local suppliers.

The Pinos Altos mine is expected to produce 199,000 ounces of gold and 2.2 million ounces of silver in 2011.  Agnico-Eagle acquired the property in 2006 after exercising an option for an exploration drilling program.  The mine officially opened in 2009.  It started as an open pit operation and the underground mine began in 2010.

Agnico-Eagle is a long established gold producer with operations located in Canada, Finland and Mexico.  Agnico-Eagle’s head office is in Toronto.  It has exploration and development projects in Canada, Finland, Mexico and the United States.  The Company has full exposure to higher gold prices consistent with its policy of no forward gold sales and maintains a corporate strategy based on increasing shareholders exposure to gold, on a per share basis.  The company produced almost one million ounces of gold in 2010, which was double the output in 2009 of 492,972 ounces of gold.

Mining is a truly global business.  Many members of the Ontario Mining Association are mineral producers, suppliers and contractors which operate internationally.  When they move from their home bases to different locations around the world, they carry with them their commitment and culture for responsibility, safety, environmental enhancement and community building where their employees live.  From time to time, the OMA would like to present case studies to show some of the positive actions its members take in countries where they operate outside of Canada. 

At the end of 2010, Agnico-Eagle Mines employed 3,2143 people at all its sites worldwide.  When contract employees are included this number increases to 4,578. 

For three years consecutively, AEM’s Pinos Altos mine received certification as a Socially Responsible Company from the Mexican Centre for Philanthropy and the Alliance for Social Responsibility of Enterprises in Mexico.