N. Vizcaya folk hail looming suspension of Aussie mine firm

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—Residents of this province expressed delight over the impending suspension of operations of an Australian mining firm in upland village in Kasibu town after it failed a recent mine audit conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).



What used to be a vast green rice and vegetable farms in Didipio village is now the reservoir of toxic mine tailings from the gold-copper project of OceanaGold, Philippines, Inc.

But they said people of Nueva Vizcaya should remain vigilant that the “temporary victory” will produce good results, and make OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. pay for the damage it has caused on the people and the environment in Didipio village, site of its gold-copper project.

“This is a welcome development. After several years of struggle, mass actions, position/petition papers, international study tours whose findings fell on deaf ears—thanks God our prayers have been heard,” said Teresita Acosta, executive director of Friends of the Environment for Development and Sustainability (Frends), a non-government organization.

Frends belongs to an alliance of groups opposed to mining in Nueva Vizcaya, which include civil society, as well as religious and people’s organizations.

“Hopefully this (suspension) will push through because (OceanaGold) has already caused so much devastation. They are too brazen, totally no regard for the destruction  of the environment,” she said.

In a press conference Sept. 27, DENR Undersecretary Leo Jasareno announced that OceanaGold is one of the 20 mining companies that were recommended for suspension.

The company failed the audit, Jasareno said, due to “social issues” that continued to beset its operations, as well as the damage that it has caused on the physical environment.

The province also prefers agriculture over mining, the report said.

The Didipio project began commercial production in 2013, despite issues hounding its operations. In its initial findings released last month, the audit team said OceanaGold’s project had failed to achieve “social acceptability” as required by law.

In a 2011 resolution, the Commission on Human Rights recommended the revocation of OceanaGold’s mining license due to human rights abuses it has committed against the people of Didipio.

Village council member Celia Bahag, who is among the leaders of a people’s organization opposing the project, said it was not enough that the Didipio mine be shut down.

“OceanaGold must also be required to pay for the damage. In the short period that they were here, they have destroyed the future of our families,” she said.

In a statement released Tuesday, Mick Wilkes, OceanaGold president and chief executive officer, said the company has not received any formal order from the government, and is seeking clarification on the details of the suspension.

‘The company will consider all avenues, including working collaboratively with the DENR, to facilitate the immediate resolution of this matter to ensure no disruption to our operations and our valued local workforce,” he said.

Anti-mining groups, however, expressed hope that OceanaGold’s looming suspension should “put an end to the sufferings of communities” affected by the mining project.

“This mining company has caused social, economic and environmental problems in the area. It’s time for our government to put an end to the sufferings of communities upstream and downstream,” Frends director Acosta said.

As an environment NGO, Frends has conducted studies on the impact on the water and soil condition in Didipio and its neighboring villages, and found that mine wastes had damaged the ecosystem there.#


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