Citrus farms under mining threat

Aussie mining firm moves into N. Vizcaya’s citrus watershed 

SOLANO, Nueva Vizcaya — An Australian mining firm has begun moves to conduct exploration activities within the watershed areas of the province’s biggest citrus-producing villages in Kasibu town, drawing concerns from local farmers and environmentalists.

Geologists from the Australasian Philippines Mining Inc. (Apmi) presented its expansion program and the proposed exploration activities in the ore-rich areas of the upland village of Papaya in Kasibu during a meeting with residents there on Thursday last week.

Apmi holds the mining rights over more than 21,000 hectares of land in Kasibu that had been granted to Climax Arimco Mining Corp., its parent company, through a financial and/or technical assistance agreement (FTAA) with the government in 1994.

Officials of the Malabing Valley Multipurpose Cooperative Inc. (MVMPCI), an organization of more than 600 citrus farmers in Kasibu and its neighboring towns, said they have begun talks with civil society groups to come up with a “coordinated move” to stop any attempt to conduct mining-related activities in Papaya.

The MVMPCI has been at the forefront of efforts to protect the thriving fruit industry there that, its records showed, produces about nine million kilograms of citrus fruits a year.

The village of Papaya, which straddles the Palali-Mamparang Range, is host to watershed forests that feed the Alimudin, Malong and Pahduan rivers, main sources of irrigation for about 150,000 fruit trees in Malabing Valley.

“The company is in for a challenge because whatever difficulties it has faced in Didipio, we will do the same in Papaya, or even greater,” said Astrid Puguon, MVMPCI board secretary.

A report that Apmi published in 2006 said the $80 million Dinkidi project in Barangay (village) Didipio aims to mine gold and copper reserves of the area for a minimum period of 15 years, with an expected output of two million tons of gold-copper ore yearly.

Puguon said Apmi was now trying to enter Papaya as a fallback, after its supposed failure to start actual mining operations in Didipio, which should have started in the first quarter of this year.

Despite obtaining an approval of its feasibility from the government, Apmi has failed to speed up its preparations for the Didipio gold-copper project due to resistance from local communities, Puguon said.

An estimated 70 anti-mining residents whose lands, totalling about 90 hectares, lie within the 325-hectare area that the company is eyeing as its main production area have refused to sell their lands, amid threats of the filing of criminal charges from environment officials for alleged illegal occupancy of a forest zone.

Earlier, the Didipio village council and Kasibu town council have denied Apmi’s request for an endorsement of its project, which is required under the Local Government Code of 1991.

An Apmi official confirmed the company’s move to expand operations in Papaya, but denied it was lagging in its preparations for Didipio project.

“We do have a commitment to the government to explore areas in the FTAA and Papaya is one of them,” said Ramoncito Gozar, Apmi manager for central liaison.

He said the company met with Papaya residents to explain the purposes and the activities to be undertaken during the planned exploration.

He, however, did not comment on concerns raised by citrus farmers that Papaya is within a watershed area.

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6 thoughts on “Citrus farms under mining threat

  1. The proper name of the company now operating in the Didipio area, and possibly the expansion in the Papaya area, is “Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc.” after the Climax-Oceana Gold merger. Perhaps it is the duty of the media to inform the public that Climax and Apmi are companies that merged with Oceana Gold, the official company name name is thus Oceana Gold. (The other company exploring south of the area in the Conwap and Muta Valleys sounds like it, but the name is Oxiana). Attributing activities to sold-out companies means “barking at the wrong tree,” and thus, any action they commit that is detrimental to the public will not be attributed to them.

    I have insiders who told me that the consultation in Barangay Papaya is the initiative of the Gozar-Arojo clique within the old APMI. Gozar and Arojo are only interested cornering exploration contracts for money, and not really mine development and operation. Former Lepanto managers working for Oceana are in charge of the Didipio project now.

  2. Thanks for pointing that out. The interviews and other sources consulted by the writer still referred to the company as Apmi. Company sources confirmed the change of name, which was just recent. We’re making the necessary correction in the subsequent stories.

    As to the point of “barking up the wrong tree”, I believe this would not happen. There is a principle in law, “piercing the veil of corporate fiction” wherein a person–or a company in this case–can still be held liable for its own acts or omissions no matter how repeatedly it tries to change its identity.

  3. Just to clarify things…

    The Australian mining firm Oceanagold begun its exploration in the area a long time ago… but not only in the aledged watershed areas , I don’t even remember that there is a declared watershed in the area where there are citrus plantations…

    Correct – Assuming there is a watershed, Oceanagold is working closely with several government agencies to help the dying citrus inustry of the province…

    Correct – Geologists from the Oceanagold presented its exploration program not expansion program in Papaya, Kasibu during a meeting with residents there on Thursday last week.

    Apmi holds the mining rights over more than 21,000 hectares of land in Kasibu that had been granted to Climax Arimco Mining Corp., its parent company, through a financial and/or technical assistance agreement (FTAA) with the government in 1994.

    Officials of the Malabing Valley Multipurpose Cooperative Inc. (MVMPCI), an organization of more than 600 citrus farmers in Kasibu and its neighboring towns, said they have begun talks with civil society groups to come up with a “coordinated move” to stop any attempt to conduct mining-related activities in Papaya.

    Correct – the Papaya community is supportive

    “The company is in for a challenge because whatever difficulties it has faced in Didipio, we will do the same in Papaya, or even greater,” said Astrid Puguon, MVMPCI board secretary.

    Correct – Oceanagold is not facing any serious difficulty, all is on schedule

    A report that Apmi published in 2006 said the $80 million Dinkidi project in Barangay (village) Didipio aims to mine gold and copper reserves of the area for a minimum period of 15 years, with an expected output of two million tons of gold-copper ore yearly.

    Correct – get your numbers right these are old figure… the project is $150million

    Puguon said Apmi was now trying to enter Papaya as a fallback, after its supposed failure to start actual mining operations in Didipio, which should have started in the first quarter of this year

    Correct – this is misinformation, the planned production is end of 2008 or early 2009

    Despite obtaining an approval of its feasibility from the government, Apmi has failed to speed up its preparations for the Didipio gold-copper project due to resistance from local communities, Puguon said.

    Correct -Puguon should visit site and see for herself the facing of the project, she’ll be shocked, please stop saying bad stories and visit

    An estimated 70 anti-mining residents whose lands, totalling about 90 hectares, lie within the 325-hectare area that the company is eyeing as its main production area have refused to sell their lands, amid threats of the filing of criminal charges from environment officials for alleged illegal occupancy of a forest zone.

    Correct – this is bad irresponsible newsreporting numbers are blown out to proportions and Oceanagold are not buying lands so who is selling their lands???

    An Apmi official confirmed the company’s move to expand operations in Papaya, but denied it was lagging in its preparations for Didipio project.

    “We do have a commitment to the government to explore areas in the FTAA and Papaya is one of them,” said Ramoncito Gozar, Apmi manager for central liaison.

    He said the company met with Papaya residents to explain the purposes and the activities to be undertaken during the planned exploration.

    He, however, did not comment on concerns raised by citrus farmers that Papaya is within a watershed area.

    Correct – Chito said he was never asked about it

    I have insiders who told me that the consultation in Barangay Papaya is the initiative of the Gozar-Arojo clique within the old APMI. Gozar and Arojo are only interested cornering exploration contracts for money, and not really mine development and operation. Former Lepanto managers working for Oceana are in charge of the Didipio project now.

    Correct – please visit Didipio now and see for yourself how the project progresses, Oceanagold has 2 operating mines on New Zealand which the community representatives have seen, in fact Oceanagold is the biggest gold mining company in New Zealand. So why think that Oceanagold is not going to develop and mine??? visit Didipio and see for yourself… when was the last time you were up Bernabe?

  4. My reply:

    “The Australian mining firm Oceanagold begun its exploration in the area a long time ago… but not only in the aledged watershed areas , I don’t even remember that there is a declared watershed in the area where there are citrus plantations…”

    >> Check with the village about the ordinance that declared their barangay as a watershed area. Check your maps, too, and you will see that three rivers supply irrigation to citrus plantations in Malabing Valley, as cited in the story. Don’t just trust your memory.

    “Assuming there is a watershed, Oceanagold is working closely with several government agencies to help the dying citrus inustry of the province…”

    >> The only agency I am aware of that you have been “working closely” with is the Mines and Geosciences Bureau. Why would you, with all sincerity, do that? Working with the Department of Agriculture, the local agricultural offices will be detrimental to your cause because it will only embolden the people to insist on agriculture as their source of livelihood, instead of mining, which you are proposing.

    The citrus industry in the province is not dying. That’s from the point of view only of miners. Go visit the newly-established Malabing Valley Agricultural Terminal in Solano and see for your self.

    “Geologists from the Oceanagold presented its exploration program not expansion program in Papaya, Kasibu during a meeting with residents there on Thursday last week.”

    >> Just semantics. You are not comfortable with the word “expansion” because you want to give the public the impression that you have been there before.

    But what happened during that meeting? Isn’t it a fact that your people were told pointblank that they will not allow your entry? That you had to schedule another meeting (on July 13–two days earlier than what has originally been agreed upon) because the young “geologist” you sent there could not give satisfactory answers to the issues raised by the people? That a mining engineer from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau engaged villagers in heated arguments because he told them that despite their objections, the company will proceed because it already has an FTAA and did not need to get their consent?

    “The Papaya community is supportive”

    >> I suggest you visit the area, talk to the people. Do an honest-to-goodness consultation. Don’t just rely on what your people in the field report to you.

    “Oceanagold is not facing any serious difficulty, all is on schedule”

    >> If this is true, why does the DENR have to sue villagers for alleged illegal occupation of forest zones? If there is “no serious difficulty” why then was your company’s request for endorsement from the local councils of Didipio village and Kasibu town denied? Isn’t it a fact that this lacking requirement is a violation of your Environmental Compliance Certificate?

    On schedule? Check the story, the link of which was given below.

    “Get your numbers right these are old figure… the project is $150million”

    >> The statement was lifted, as the story mentioned, from the company report published in 2006. If there was any error, then it is the company that is making false reports.

    “This is misinformation, the planned production is end of 2008 or early 2009”

    >> Please check this press release issued by your staff. Give particular attention to the penultimate paragraph:
    http://www.mb.com.ph/issues/2005/10/31/PROV2005103147991.html

    Also, click this link:
    http://www.climaxmining.com.au/dinkidi_project.html
    Read the last paragraph of the page and see who is sowing “misinformation”.

    “This is bad irresponsible newsreporting numbers are blown out to proportions and Oceanagold are not buying lands so who is selling their lands???”

    >> Your men may not have reported to you that there are titled lands within your proposed production area, which are either rice lands, or orchards. Are you not trying to buy them? Aren’t you trying to invoke the government’s power of eminent domain on these private property? The data cited were obtained from the DENR.

    “Chito said he was never asked about it.”

    >> That’s what he SAID. I sent him three text messages, but I got no reply. When I altered my question, he sent back a reply. That response was quoted in the story.

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