Michael Steinmann // President & CEO
2019 marked Pan American Silver’s 25th year of operation. This was a transformative year for the Company with the acquisition of Tahoe Resources, and I am proud of our accomplishments. I am equally proud of our continued commitment to building and maintaining a reputation for excellence in discovery, engineering, innovation, safety and long-term sustainability. With the acquisition, we added four new operations to our portfolio: La Arena and Shahuindo in Peru, Timmins West and Bell Creek in Canada, and Escobal in Guatemala. We also doubled our workforce and our silver reserves and added substantial gold production.
Our focus in 2019 was the integration of the Tahoe assets into our portfolio, including instilling Pan American Silver’s values and sustainability approach at the new operations. We have also been working to leverage synergies and share best practices, which are already contributing to performance improvements across the organization. I would like to thank both the Pan American Silver and Tahoe Resources teams for their efforts in making the transition successful.
We are continuously striving to improve our sustainability performance. One component of this is the implementation of the Mining Association of Canada’s (MAC) Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) protocols and frameworks, a world class management standard designed to help mining companies address and manage key sustainability issues. We are on track to reach level A in 2020 at all of our operations other than those acquired through Tahoe; we anticipate reaching level A at those operations by 2022.
During the year, we made significant efforts towards formalizing our approach to human rights. We implemented a new Human Rights Policy and appointed a Human Rights Officer. We are also deepening our alignment with the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and UNICEF Canada’s Child Rights and Security Checklist at operations using security forces.
Following the acquisition of the Escobal mine in Guatemala, during 2019, we settled the Garcia v. Tahoe Resources Inc. case, which was brought against Tahoe for the use of violence during a protest at the mine in 2013. It was important to demonstrate that we strive to reach peaceful, amicable resolution to conflicts through constructive and respectful dialogue. Mining operations at Escobal remain suspended and on care and maintenance, pending completion of an International Labour Organization 169 consultation process by the Government of Guatemala. During this time, we are complying with the requirements of Escobal’s environmental management plan, which includes respecting existing commitments to the communities and responding to requests for information.
Our human rights policy also reinforces our commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workforce. Diversity makes us better, and we will continue to emphasize the importance of diversity and inclusivity at all our operations, including increasing the number of women in our workforce. In 2020, we will be piloting our Building Respect Together program with the intention of creating more respectful, safe, and sustainable work environments. The program will also include content to foster greater understanding and protection of, and respect for women’s rights.
We believe responsible mining can provide important benefits to communities. Our host communities are stakeholders in our success, and we work with them to share the benefits of our operations and to create sustainable improvements in their quality of life. We are currently supporting 16 long-term socio-economic development programs in our host communities. Education is a focus in our programs, and we have helped more than 8,000 students acquire quality primary and post-secondary education.
Our human rights policy explicitly makes the connection between protection of the environment and human rights, and it commits us to take action toward reducing our water usage and reducing our emissions. We consider climate change to be one of the most important issues of our time. We are strengthening our reporting on greenhouse gas emissions and our climate change mitigation efforts. In line with recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, we also completed a review of the potential risks that climate change poses for our operations. And, we are investing in initiatives to make our host communities more resilient to climate change; our reforestation projects at Dolores and La Arena, with more than 360,000 trees planted during the year, are good examples of this.
In 2019, we completed an independent tailings dam safety review at our La Colorada mine. We have now completed independent tailings dam safety reviews at all of our operating facilities. Also, in 2019, we submitted our data to the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative, supporting transparent reporting of tailings information. Our ongoing commitment is to advocate for responsible tailings management through MAC and the Global Tailings Review.
In spite of our focus on the continuous improvement of our safety performance, tragic accidents at our Morococha mine in Peru and our Manantial Espejo mine in Argentina resulted in two employee fatalities. We are deeply saddened by the loss of these lives and extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family and co-workers of both employees. Safety is a priority for Pan American Silver, and we will continue our unrelenting focus on improving safety for the more than 12,000 employees and contractors who work at our sites. We are currently implementing measures designed to prevent similar accidents in the future, and we continue our programs focused on embedding and furthering the culture of safety at each site.
Early in 2020, we find ourselves facing unprecedented challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our primary concern is the health and safety of our employees and contractors, and the communities, where they live and work. We are implementing all the necessary measures to protect our people and help in the global effort to reduce the impact of the pandemic. As a company, we remain flexible and we are adapting our business continuity plans as the situation evolves. The COVID-19 pandemic is a very disruptive, but transitory event and calls for socially responsible leadership. We are adhering to our core values, responding to the impacts of this event with sensitivity, patience, and resilience.
We enter 2020 with a well-diversified portfolio of assets, large reserves, a strong financial position, and a team of top talent. I recognize that with the recent growth of the Company, and the assets we have acquired, comes increased visibility and expectations around our ESG and operational performance.
It is imperative that we continue to strive for excellence by demonstrating sustainability leadership and exceeding stakeholder expectations. Throughout our 25-year history, our people have been working to provide value to our stakeholders and contribute to the well-being of our host communities. I am thankful for their contributions and look forward to the future we are building together.