Going.. going..

N. Vizcaya folk hail Aussie firm’s shelving of mine project

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Environment groups here on Thursday welcomed the announcement of a Australian firm OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. that it was indefinitely putting on hold its US$117-million gold copper project in upland Kasibu town due to financial difficulties.

“This is a much deserved reward for our people who have suffered long enough from the activities of this company, but who endured and fought all the odds and prove once more that we should take control of our land,” said Peter Duyapat, president of the Didipio EarthSavers Multipurpose Association, a people’s organization.

On Wednesday, Stephen Orr, chief executive officer of OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. announced that the company is placing the Didipio gold-copper project under “care and maintenance” following company’s “strategic review” of its plans since it stopped operations in June.

This means that the company, in the meantime, will not be advancing the project beyond its present status until global economic conditions improve, said Darren Clinck, OceanaGold vice president for corporate and investor relations.

“(The announcement) definitely comes to us as a welcome development. But we all look forward to the time when OceanaGold would totally abandon this project, withdraw its security forces and turn over all its assets to the Philippine government,” Duyapat said.

He said the company’s move should come as another blow for the mining industry, as the national government has tagged the Didipio venture as one of its flagship projects to help revive the country’s mineral production.

“This just proves once more that no large-scale mining project will ever succeed if it will sacrifice the environment, and abuse the rights of the locals, especially those belonging to (indigenous peoples),” he added.

Since 2006, OceanaGold has been trying to start operations at its proposed mine site in Didipio village, about 270 km north of Manila, under a 1994 financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) it has acquired from another Australian mine firm, Climax Arimco Mining Corp.

In June, the company stopped its land-clearing activities in the area, with officials citing financial difficulties and that the company needed an additional US$185 million to complete the project.

It has sought mergers with other mine firms and initially planned to resume activities in September, but this was apparently scuttled by the current financial crisis.

“We recognize the inherent value that the Didipio project and our exploration portfolio in the Philippines represent for shareholders but the uncertainty around current financial markets dictates that we affect this strategy,” Orr added.

For his part, Kasibu Mayor Romeo Tayaban said that despite its suspension, the company should still be made to answer for the complaints that it has generated from the people of Didipio and neighboring villages.

“That is welcome news. But what about the problems that it has created? What about the roads that they have destroyed? And why are they still there?” Tayaban asked in the dialect.

Tayaban has filed cases against the company for the revocation of its FTAA for its supposed failure to obtain the approval of affected local communities, as required by the local government code.

In a separate statement, Clinck said that despite the project’s indefinite suspension, the company will maintain its presence at the site.

“The company will maintain a team at site and will continue to work closely with the local community. We will also continue to be honor our commitments in the areas of education, health and community assistance,” he said.

For the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, OceanaGold’s announcement also means that the company has “lost its legal eligibility” to continue the Didipio project.

“It should now withdraw from the (FTAA), and the government must take the necessary steps to safeguard the indigenous peoples, communities, and natural resources of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces,” said Ronald Gregorio, LRC campaigns director.

The LRC has been helping Didipio residents in their legal battle against OceanaGold, including about 50 villagers those whose houses have been torn down by the company allegedly without having been accorded due process and paid their just compensation.#

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6 thoughts on “Going.. going..

  1. This is a huge victory for the Nueva Vizcaya Indigenous folks. Thank you to all who participated in the fight for the rights of the Didipio residents especially the journalists who keep the public informed about their plight. Your support is appreciated as we continue this important endeavor. The next step is to continue working together on making OceanaGold accountable for all the abuses, damages, and displacements it created in the community. In good faith, the company should help the Didipio residents get back to their normal life.
    My congratulations to all the Didipio residents who fought for their rights. I am very proud of all of you. More power to you.
    Gaddang Native

  2. so you won round one gaddang!!, so the people can now go back to poverty!! walang pera !!walang future!!, you poor uneducated pagan!! ah well, you can now explain to those who were for the mine and all its advantages who is going to build the hospital who is going to educate your people who is going to build many businesses and prosper your villages? not you gaddang for you do nothing for nobody except yourself, why dont you do something for your people instead of making them poorer, whats your plan smarty? no plan ? fancy that!! all talk and no action!! what a shame!! its people like you that keep your people and your country in the dark ages, tell us what can you do to educate your people ?what can you do to feed the starving?, what is your plan the npa? or just back to the nga nga? we await your reply with abated breath

  3. They way eaglelover has been putting all those exclamation marks in his comments may just very well reflect how disturbed he is with the OceanaGold’s Didipio project closing down.. *sigh*

    Lesson learned: never invest in projects which mess with people’s rights and the environment.

  4. I am a true blooded resident of Kasibu though from the Poblacion. I am so touched and so grateful for those people who have fought and continue fighting for the right of every indigents of Kasibu. I was once offered to work in a mining company but i humbly turned it down because gaddang and sir melvin is right.. its not the money that counts, its the dignity of the people and the commitment to safeguard the habitat of the natural settlers. I belong to a poor family but I never took advantage of the offer of the said foreign company even though I know i am going to have well atleast “pantawid Gutom” for my poor family. For eagle lover to understand us, he should learn to be humble first and should learn to define the word peace of mind…Any way.. Filipinos are Filipinos..we have nothing to prove..

  5. Good for you Kasibu Daughter! Continue to guard your environment and your people with all your might and personal power. I am very proud of you for standing up for your rights. I am behind you.

    From your humble advocate,
    Gaddang Native

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