Second facelift

Australian mining firm gets new name–again

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–An Australian mining firm that is eyeing to conduct large-scale mining activities in upland Kasibu town has changed its name for the second time in nearly three years, with company officials claiming the move was part of a corporate packaging strategy.

Australasian Philippines Mining Inc. (Apmi) is now known as OceanaGold Phils., Inc., by virtue of a 2006 merger in Australia between Climax Mining Limited, Apmi’s parent company, and Oceana Gold Limited, said Ramoncito Gozar, the company’s associate director for communications and external affairs.

“Apmi in the Philippines just sought for a change in name (because) we want the company to be international in a sense, because OceanaGold is better known internationally. It’s just ‘branding’,” he said.

OceanaGold is aiming to start its proposed gold-copper project in Didipio village amid opposition from the local communities.

Originally known as Climax Arimco Mining Corp., the company was granted entry into the country through a financial and technical assistance agreement it entered into with the Philippine government in 1994.

CAMC later transferred the FTAA to Apmi in a 2004 agreement. However, it has failed to start actual mining operations after failing to get the consent of local communities.

The change of name came to the fore when the company tried to start exploration activities in Papaya village in Kasibu early this month, drawing opposition from locals.

Villagers said mining should never be allowed in their area because it has been declared through a local ordinance as a watershed for about 10,000 hectares of citrus plantations in Malabing Valley.

Residents have expressed confusion over the changes in the company’s name, and raised concerns that different foreign corporations were taking turns in using the FTAA to try to extract the province’s mineral resources.

“Geologists came insisting that they no longer needed the consent of the community. People there are confused because we are facing an enemy that is constantly changing its looks,” Prescilla Guilao, Papaya village treasurer, said in the dialect.

She said the people also suspect that wealthy foreign businessmen were using different corporations as dummies.

Guilao noted that another Australian company, Oxiana Phils., was also granted an exploration permit covering about 5,800 hectares in nearby Pao village.

Papaya residents said the change of name was meant not only as a “cosmetic remedy” to boost the company’s image before mining investors, but also to evade liability for its previous actions.

But Gozar denied this, adding that OceanaGold, which is a 100-percent Australian-owned company, remains the same company that originally had a stake in Didipio.

OceanaGold is not related to Oxiana, he said.

In adopting the new name, he said the company aims to ride on the good record that Oceana has established in the global mining industry.

“We also want to be carried by the good environment and social merits and experiences of OceanaGold abroad. We are bound to do (these programs) in the Philippines, anyway,” he said.

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