OceanaGold Phils. asked to start rehab of Didipio mine site
By MELVIN C. GASCON
KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya–Town officials here have called on the national government to order a foreign mining firm to start its rehabilitation of the mine site in Didipio village after its operation was ordered suspended by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
In a resolution, the Kasibu town council asked the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to direct OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. to repair a “gaping crater-like pit” in the middle of Didipio village, site of its gold-copper mining project.
The officials were invoking the Mining Act of 1995, that OceanaGold was mandated to undertake rehabilitation of “excavated, mined out, tailings covered and disturbed areas” of its Didipio mining site.
Since it started operations in 2013, OceanaGold has flattened what was then Dinkidi hill and dug up an open pit in Didipio, causing concern among local officials, villagers and environment groups.
“(OceanaGold) has already expressed that its open pit operations in extracting gold has stopped last year. The town government believes that (OceanaGold) should have already started rehabilitating the said open pit,” the resolution read in part.
Kasibu mayor Chito Bumolo expressed concern that OceanaGold has not presented any rehabilitation plan once it ceases its operations in Didipio.
“We are getting worried because it has been years, and we have yet to know what they intend to do with the mine site once they leave, and whether this plan is acceptable to the communities,” he said.
The company is trying to stave off a suspension order issued by environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez for its Didipio gold-copper project by elevating an appeal with President Rodrigo Duterte.
Citing the findings of a mine audit she commissioned last year, Lopez ordered the suspension of OceanaGold’s operations here over unresolved social and environmental issues.
Sought for comment, Mario Ancheta, MGB Cagayan Valley director, said the agency will study the Kasibu government’s request.
“We will assess whether or not under its mine rehabilitation plan, the company is now supposed to undertake rehabilitation of the area at this time. We will also monitor whether or not the company has fully complied in its obligation to make deposits for the (mine rehabilitation fund),” he said.
For its part, OceanaGold said “rehabilitation and closure planning is an integral consideration” of its Didipio mining operations.
“We know the risks in rehabilitating and closing an operating mine and we intend to minimize these risks as far as possible by working closely with our regulators and the community,” said Ramoncito Gozar, OceanaGold senior vice president for communications and external affairs. (PNA)