MAC: Mines and Communities

OceanaGold not welcome in El Salvador and the Philippines

Published by MAC on 2016-06-10
Source: Statements (2016-06-09)

... company told at its Toronto AGM

OceanaGold not welcome in El Salvador and the Philippines, company told during Toronto meeting

Joint press release

9 June 2016

Toronto/Ottawa - Today, during OceanaGold’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Toronto, company shareholders were asked to scrutinize company claims regarding supposed benefits for affected communities in El Salvador and the Philippines.

“It just doesn’t add up. OceanaGold is not acting in the interest of communities in El Salvador when it sues the country for USD $250 million over a mine permit that it has never met the regulatory requirements to obtain,” remarked Rachel Small from the Council of Canadians in Toronto.

A decision is expected shortly over this suit from the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The case, which has dragged on for seven years, has already cost El Salvador over USD $12 million in legal costs; enough for a year’s worth of adult literacy classes for roughly 330,000 people.

“OceanaGold’s claims don’t compute. The company insists that mining is good for the country, but Salvadorans have been remarkably clear that this is not their desired option for future generations in their densely populated and already water-stressed country,” commented Jim Hodgson from the United Church of Canada.

Since 2008, three successive Salvadoran presidents have committed not to issue new mining permits. A 2015 opinion poll found that opposition to metal mining is nearly 79.5% nationwide and 83.9% in municipalities affected by OceanaGold’s El Dorado project.

“The activities of the company’s El Dorado Foundation in El Salvador do not compensate for the bullying of the last seven years. Worse, this sort of so-called corporate philanthropy could compound social divisions and contribute to further violence against local environmental activists, as has already taken place,” added Jen Moore of MiningWatch Canada and co-author of a recent report about the activities of the El Dorado Foundation in El Salvador.

Between 2009 and 2011, four environmental activists were murdered in Cabañas, El Salvador. More recently, several local organizations have received threats. These crimes have never been fully investigated.

“It is particularly shameful that OceanaGold is using its experience at the Didipio mine in the Philippines to try to pitch this project to Salvadorans when, based on what we have seen on the ground in Nueva Vizcaya, this project’s legacy is one of community displacement, broken promises, and environmental degradation,” stated Connie Sorio for KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.

A statement from the Filipino coalition Alyansa Tigil Mina prepared in time for OceanaGold's AGM stated the demand from local organizations in Nueva Vizcaya that are calling for OceanaGold's operations to stop and for their lands to be rehabilitated, given impacts on water supplies and farmlands. The Incoming Governor of Nueva Vizcaya, Carlos M. Padilla, also issued an open letter reiterating the call for OceanaGold to pull out, emphasizing how the costs of the company's open-pit mine far outweigh scarce benefits.

Contacts:

Jim Hodgson, United Church of Canada, jhodgson(at)united-church.ca, 416-231-5931 x4013
Jen Moore, MiningWatch Canada, jen(at)miningwatch.ca, (613) 569-3439
Rachel Small, Council of Canadians, rsmall(at)canadians.org, 647-769-2472
Connie Sorio, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, csorio(at)kairoscanada.org, (416) 463-5312 ext 240


Our message to OceanaGold Corporation: ‘We will fight until you are vanished’

A Solidarity Statement

26 May 2016

Warmest solidarity greetings!

From Amianan Salakniban (Defend the North), SAPAKKMI Didipio, Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan (ANNVIK), Defend Patrimony Alliance,  and the Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment (Kalikasan), we wish you success in your action today and campaign against the environmental criminal OceanaGold Corporation.

Thank you for your support and solidarity to our struggle to defend our rights and environment against the pillage and destruction by such a greedy foreign corporation in our country.

Let us reiterate that we vehemently denounce and oppose Oceana Gold’s large-scale gold mining operations in the village of Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya province, Philippines.

Since their entry in Didipio, land grabbing has intensified, human rights violations have proliferated, and ecological destruction has been exacerbated in the area.

The award declaring OceanaGold as the Most Environmentally Responsible Mining Company by the Philippine government came as no surprise to us. The greenwash award, which was boastfully announced by Mick Wilkes, President and CEO of Oceana Gold, last March, is nothing but a greenwashing ceremony that depict polluters and rights violators such as OceanaGold as responsible and environment friendly in their business operations.

If the people of Didipio will decide, OceanaGold deserves the Most Irresponsible and Abusive Mining Company.

Erenio Bobola, a local resident in Didipio and indigenous people’s leader of SAPAKKMI, contested that the company’s award is a sham. To them, the only thing OceanaGold is responsible for is the displacement of their community and the continuing degradation of their environment. Bobola asserted that OceanaGold deceived them with promises of economic progress and social services once they start mining operations in their lands.

Two of Didipio’s communities were wiped out in Didipio. In 2008, OceanaGold started to illegally demolish houses of indigenous people in the communities. These areas were later converted into a tailings pond that persistently leaks toxic chemicals to the Didipio River and adjacent water bodies.

Independent scientific studies conducted by progressive scientist group AGHAM and national environmental network Kalikasan demonstrates point-blank the pollution in the Didipio river system caused by OceanaGold’s mining operations. According to a 2014 AGHAM report, the level of copper contamination in Didipio River exceeded the maximum safe level both for irrigation use and for the survival of aquatic organisms.

OceanaGold’s blasting operations also reportedly caused the community’s potable water supply from the springs to dry up. Several sitios (communities) were abandoned because of this. Entire families were forced away from their homes. Neither rehabilitation nor relocation was ever conducted by the company.

The Barangay or Village Health Center has also reported an increase in incidences of respiratory diseases ever since OceanaGold started its operations.  More than a thousand residents complaining of respiratory problems were documented by the barangay health workers in Didipio.

Since its full scale operations in 2013, none of their promises to the community were delivered. Schools remained as they were before the entry of the mines: lacking in teachers, school facilities, computers, chairs and school buildings. The promised establishment of a hospital is still non-existent.

The forests, hills and mountains surrounding the once verdant Dinkidi Hill, were heavily devastated and still under threat of complete decimation as the company plans to expand its operations.

Is this responsible mining and progress? Oceana Gold brought nothing but suffering to us. This is the common response you will get from the locals.

According to Fernando Mangili, spokesperson of Amianan Salakniban, the network for the environment and human rights in North Luzon, there is no doubt that OceanaGold became the lowest-costing gold producer in the world. This is all because of the Philippines’ lenient laws, cheap labor policies, and their neglect of their corporate responsibilities to the community of Didipio.

In their more than five years of full operations, the government of the Philippines only received measly taxes from the company. With the Financial Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) granted through the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the company is allowed to repatriate 100% of its profit for seven years. They also have guaranteed auxiliary rights to water, timber, and the right to ease out—demolish, in other words—houses within the scope of their operations.

As a whole, the foreign dominated Philippine mining industry has barely made a dent in contributing to the country’s Gross Domestic Product with only 0.7% contribution since 2012. Since 2011, mining contribution to employment remained at 0.6% despite the increase in approved mining tenements nationwide.

The industry employs a contractualization scheme in their labor force to further lower their cost of production and increase their profit. Contractual workers do not have job security, get lower wages than the regular workers, plus they receive lesser health care and benefits. If they die inside the mines, they won’t get any pittance from the company. They also have no right to form unions. If they question the management, they will easily be fired.

For the people of Didipio, OceanaGold’s massive profit is definitely rooted in its exploitation of Didipio’s natural resources, its workers and violation of rights of the communities.

Since last year, the people of Didipio had organized themselves and collected over 10,000 signatures from barangays in municipalities surrounding the mine site to stop the expansion and operation of OceanaGold. They have already launched petition signing drives, information and education missions and are planning to file a legal case to protect what was left of their environment. They have launched various militant protests from the gates of the mine site, to the façade of national conferences of miners.

We will continue to fight OceanaGold’s exploitation of our natural resources and our brothers and sisters in Nueva Vizcaya, until we are able to kick them out of our country.

We will continue to lend our hands to organizations, communities, peoples, and nations who are facing the same repression and oppression from greedy environment criminal corporations. Particularly, we extend our solidarity with the people of El Salvador, the workers of New Zealand, and the people of Australia and the United States who are facing different challenges and violations from OcenaGold interest and operations.

We are very thankful for your continuing support and solidarity in our struggle.  We hope that you will continue to help us to pressure the government of the Philippines to scrap the neoliberal policy of Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the law that is the root of the peoples suffering for two decades. We hope that you can also help the community of Didipio in their legal battle to protect the environment in any way you can.

OceanaGold, environmental criminal and rights violator!

OceanaGold, out of the Philippines and El Salvador now!

People of the World: resist mining plunder!

Stand up for our rights and environment!

Long live International Solidarity!

Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: +63 (2) 433 0184 | E-mail: secretariat[at]kalikasan.net | Site: www.kalikasan.net


Didipio People to Oceana Gold: “Your Profit Is Our Demise”

Amianan Salakniban Press Release

27 May 2016

Didipio anti-mining community lashed back at Oceana Gold Corporation’s claim as the Most Environmentally Responsible Mining Company in a statement released by Mick Wilkes, the President and CEO of Oceana Gold during the Sydney Mining Club last May 5, 2016.

“All lies,” said Erenio Bobola, a local resident of Didipio and an active anti-mining leader in the community under SPPKKMI Didipio. “The only thing they are responsible for is the destruction of our environment and the failure in delivering the ‘progress’ and basic social services they promised us before its operations”

According to Bobola, two of their barangays were wiped out, illegally demolished by the company in 2008 and the area was converted into a tailings pond that leaks toxic chemicals to the Didipio River and all rivers connected to it. Their cattle die upon drinking the water from the rivers connected to Oceana Gold’s tailings pond.

The pollution of Didipio’s river systems that provide water for farmland irrigations were repeatedly proven by several fact-finding missions of scientists under AGHAM and Kalikasan PNE and international groups since 2013 to 2015.

He further added that its subsidiary here in the Philippines, Oceana Gold Philippines Inc.’s (OGPI) blasting operations also caused the community’s potable water supply from the springs to dry up. Several sitios were abandoned because of this. Entire families were displaced. No rehabilitation or relocation was ever set up by the company.

The Barangay Health Center has also reported an increase in cases of respiratory diseases ever since Oceana Gold started its operations. More than a thousand residents complaining of respiratory problems were documented by the Barangay health workers in Didipio.

Existing forests in the hills and mountains surrounding the once Dinkidi Hill, are being threatened to be denuded and excavated as the company plans to expand its operations. Last March, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) granted a five-year extension to its mining contract, legalizing their exploration works in the region surrounding Didipio.

“Since its full scale operations in 2013, none of their promises to the community were delivered. Schools remained as they were before the entry of the mines, lacking in teachers, school facilities, computers, chairs and school buildings. The hospital is still non-existent. “

“Is this responsible mining?” Bobola added. “Oceana Gold brought us nothing but suffering.”

According to Fernando Mangili, spokesperson of Amianan Salakniban, the network for the environment and human rights in North Luzon, “There’s no doubt that OGPI became the ‘lowest cost gold producer’ in the world. This is all because of the Philippine’s lenient laws, cheap labor policies, and their neglect of their corporate responsibilities to the community of Didipio.”

Mangili added that in more than five years of full operations, the government of the Philippines only received measly taxes from the company. With the Financial Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) granted through the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the company is allowed to export 100% of its profit for seven years. They also have auxiliary rights to water, timber, and the right to demolish houses in the scope of their operations.

According to Mines and Geosciences Bureu data in 2015, the mining industry’s contribution  to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) doesn’t go beyond only 0.7% since 2012 while its contribution to employment remains at 0.6% despite the increase in approved mining tenements nationwide since 2011.

According to Kilusang Mayo Uno-Kordilyera, mining companies are adapting the contractualization scheme legalized by the Republic Act 6715, better known as the Herrera Law. Contractual workers get lower wages than the regular workers, no health care and other benefits. If they die inside the mines, they only get a small pittance from the company. They also have no right to form unions. If they question the management, they will easily be fired.

“For the people of Didipio, Oceana Gold’s massive profit is definitely due to its exploitation of Didipio’s rich natural resources, its workers and its failure to deliver social services to the community,” Mangili added.

Since last year, the people of Didipio had organized themselves and collected over 10,000 signatures from barangays in municipalities surrounding the mine site to stop the expansion and operation of Oceana Gold Philippines Inc. They have already launched petitions signing, mass actions in DENR and MGB regional and national offices,  information and education missions in adjacent barangays and municipalities.Currently, they are planning to file a Writ of Kalikasan in the area to protect what was left of their environment.

For follow-up;

Fernando Mangili
Amianan Salakniban Spokesperson
09174676337

 

 

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