MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Opposition to Presidential order to negotiate OceanaGold's license renewal

Published by MAC on 2020-12-15
Source: Statement, Manila Times, Philippine Star

Gov. Carlos Padilla has appealed to President Duterte to discontinue mining operations.

For over a year there has been a continuing stand-off after OceanaGold's mining license lapsed without agreement on renewal. Local communities and local government units have been blockading the company from continuing their operations despite the lack of legal permission - see: Philippines: Civil society and UN experts call for rights to be respected at Didipio

Now it appears that the Office of the President has issued an order to the Philippine negotiating panel to start negotiating a renewal. High level negotations may well re-start, but the concerns of those close to the minesite will need to be taken into account too.

See Letter to Pres Duterte from Gov. Padilla on OceanaGold: Letter_Padilla.pdf


Nueva Vizcaya gov files appeal vs OceanaGold

Leander C. Domingo

Manila Times -

13 December 2020

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: Gov. Carlos Padilla has appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to discontinue mining operations in this province, particularly the two government-sanctioned large-scale operations of OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) and FCF Minerals Inc. (FCF).

OGPI has been contracted by the national government to operate the Didipio Gold and Copper Project in Kasibu town while FCF was also contracted to operate the Runruno Gold-Molybdenum Project in Quezon town, both under a 25-year Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA).

Due to the June 10, 2019 expiration of the initial validity of the 25-year FTAA, OGPI has suspended the company’s operation for more than a year now and has been working with the national government for its renewal possibly for another 25 years.

Padilla appealed to Malacañang, following Duterte’s instructions to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Finance to renegotiate and finalize the renewal of OGPI’s FTAA.

An FTAA is a license issued to a multinational company that shares technology and resources to explore and extract minerals in the Philippines. OGPI’s FTAA, which was the first in the country under the Mining Act of 1995, covers 10,266 hectares, including the temporarily suspended mine in a 925-hectare area in Barangay Didipio.

Duterte’s order to the DENR also came after the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples issued to OGPI a Certification of Non-Overlap (CNO), which states that the FTAA area is outside the ancestral domain of the indigenous group, comprised of the Bugkalot tribe.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said Nueva Vizcaya province’s Bugkalot tribe that stays near OGPI applied to expand its ancestral domain, which would include the Didipio Mine’s FTAA area of operation. This development has delayed the renewal of the OGPI, which has been addressed with the NCIP issuance of the CNO.

In his letter to Duterte, Padilla expressed his apprehensions against the continued mining, which included, among others, that Barangay Didipio and Barangay Runruno are sub-watersheds of the Cagayan River and that these are “critical watersheds,” which need protection.

“Continuous operation of OGPI and FCF endangers the lives of the community,” he said.

Padilla cited the declaration made by the National Economic and Development Authority that Nueva Vizcaya is a “watershed haven and agroforestry hub,” which makes the province the “life support system” of Region 2 (Cagayan Valley) and neighboring areas.

“Our watersheds supply water both for irrigation services and hydroelectric power,” he said.

Appealing for the nonrenewal of the OGPI FTAA, Padilla said the expansion of the company’s mining operation would endanger the unexplored areas and that it may affect some famous tourist destinations in the mineral- and agriculture-rich upland town of Kasibu.

The governor also cited the MGB Geohazard Map, published in 2012, indicating that Nueva Vizcaya is “highly susceptible” to landslides.

According to Padilla, the MGB in 2011 has also listed the province as No. 3 among the 10 landslide-prone provinces in the Philippines.

OGPI claims otherwise that the FTAA renewal has the “strong endorsement of the residents in the local communities in and around the Didipio Mine including other Indigenous Peoples in the area.”

“The company looks forward to the continued engagement with the national government with the goal of finalizing the FTAA renewal,” OceanaGold said in a statement.

It also added that “as a contractor of the Philippine government and a responsible multinational miner, the company is ready and waiting to restart the Didipio operations and to continue contributing to the Philippines’ post-Covid-19 recovery.”

Earlier, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu came out with an order to close illegal small-scale mining operations in the province and ordered the MGB-Region 2 to look for an area for the possible establishment of a Minahang Bayan for displaced miners, particularly those near the Runruno Mine.

MGB Region 2 Director Mario Ancheta said the secretary’s order of finding a Minahang Bayan site results in having the displaced miners legalized and regulated to ensure their safety and to provide for their continued livelihood while preventing further destruction of the environment.

Green groups hit Malacañang order for mine re-negotiations; cite recent floodings

Didipio mines must not be allowed to re-open to avoid more floods.

8 December 2020

Quezon City – Green group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) hit Malacanang today for its reported order to re-negotiate the Didipio mining contract in Nueva Vizcaya province, saying this move by the executive department was ill-advised.

Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator of ATM said that Malacanang appears to be “either insensitive or is simply blind to the situation of affected-communities in Northern Luzon”, who are still reeling from the impacts of floods and landslides brought by typhoons “Rolly” and “Ulysses” last month.

“President Duterte himself has said that mining and logging must be stopped to avoid repeating the disasters, but this recent order to start the re-negotiation of the Didipio Mining Project in Kasibu town is completely out of place and directly in conflict with the President’s announcements”, Garganera said. “We demand that Malacanang publicly disclose this order to have clarity”, he added.

“We are also deeply frustrated with the DENR, as they seem to be completely blind to the complaints of mining-affected communities, and this government agency is simply interested to get the claimed economic benefits of mining, while disregarding the ill-effects to the environment and the impacts of climate change”, Garganera concluded.

The DENR-MGB and the corporate website of OceanaGold released their respective statements about the alleged Malacanang order.

Local group Didipio Earth Savers Multi-purpose Association (DESAMA) expressed anger upon hearing the news. “The government doesn’t seem to listen to us”, said Rolando Pulido, DESAMA Chairperson. “We will continue to hold the barricades at the mine gates, to prevent the entry of mine supplies and equipment, because they are not welcome here!”, Pulido added.

Also, BILEG woman leader Myrna Duyan said they are saddened and outraged by this development. “We can't believe that the national government is doing this to us. We have lost our lands, our livelihoods and we are victims of floods and landslides. Why is the government still supporting mining that destroy our mountains and lives?”, Duyan asked. She added that they do not accept mining in their area, and that they will continue to fight this illegal mining.

In a related development, Gov. Carlos Padilla of Nueva Vizcaya expressed his dismay that this order was issued. He said that he still has to receive a copy of this order, but he finds it misplaced and inconsistent with the earlier pronouncement of Pres. Duterte. He said that he is standing by with his stance not to allow any more mining in the province to protect not only the watershed and agriculture areas, but also the safety and well-being of his constituents.

“In the recent typhoons that hit North Luzon, floods due to mining caused destruction in the Lower Magat area. The mine tailings pond of OGPI overflowed and destroyed a road and some culverts. The main road to Kasibu and Brgy. Didipio was not passable for several days. We cannot risk another set of disasters with the mine operating”, said Padilla.

Meanwhile, LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women) said, “The recent series of typhoons that hit the region highlighted the devastating long lasting impacts of large scale mining on food security, and on the lives of the Tuwali women and men. It is not just the illegal mining and logging operations that are problematic, as the government keeps harping on. It is also these mining operations which are given permit to operate for 25 years, like OGPI, and now is poised to be renewed for another 25 years. This is worse than problematic, because they commit these destruction of the environment, and violation of human rights, with impunity. The government should instead compel OGPI to start its rehabilitation program immediately."

On the other, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC), said: "The renegotiation of the FTAA is symptomatic of a socio-economic order that privileges big corporate interests, commodifies nature, while trivialising the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology."

For details, you may contact:

Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator - +63917 549 8218
Rolando Pulido, DESAMA Chairperson – +63936 286 1478
Myrna Duyan, BILEG Chairperson – +63905 665 6432905 665 643205 665 6432
Judy Pasimio, LILAK National Coordinator – +63917 526 8341
Atty. Ryan Rosset, LRC Coordinator of Direct Legal Service - +63977 133 0512

Government orders renegotiation of OceanaGold contract

Louise Maureen Simeon

The Philippine Star -

7 December 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The government seems to continue warming up to the mining industry after President Duterte ordered the renegotiation of the contract of Australian-Canadian mining firm OceanaGold.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said the Office of the President issued an order to the Philippine negotiating panel to start negotiating with OceanaGold on the terms and condition of its financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA).

“We wanted to finish the negotiation fast without sacrificing government interests, so that the project can begin to contribute to the economic recovery of the country and most of all the stakeholders of the project,” MGB director Wilfredo Moncano told The STAR.

OceanaGold’s FTAA for its Didipio mine in Nueva Vizcaya expired in June 2019 and it has failed to secure a renewal of its mining contract, and therefore, mine closure was implemented by local authorities.

As of now, 76 percent of its 1,500 workforce have been permanently laid off. Most of its workers are from the local communities of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino.

OceanaGold confirmed that it has been notified by the OP regarding the renegotiation.

“The OP gave instructions to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Finance to engage with us and renegotiate,” OceanaGold Philippines communications manager Marjorie Idio told The STAR.

“But as to the details, we really haven’t commenced discussions. We were just informed very recently. We are still waiting for further instructions, but we are looking at this in a very positive light,” she said.

The OP earlier found a deficiency based on the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act. The first 25 years of OceanaGold was not covered by the IPRA law and the mine area was outside the ancestral domain of the Bugkalot tribe.

However, during its renewal, the tribe also filed an application for expansion, which technically covered the area of OceanaGold.

This dragged the FTAA final renewal of OceanaGold even if it has secured the endorsement from the DENR and MGB since last year.

The President has the final decision on the grant and renewal of an FTAA.

As the industry is placed in a rather better light, the Philippine Mining and Exploration Association (PMEA) emphasized that OceanaGold’s renegotiation is a positive development for the sector.

“This is much better rather than we are in limbo and doing nothing. We are moving forward and we might see Didipio mine contributing substantially next year,” PMEA president Joey Ayson said.

OceanaGold said it would work as quickly and safely as it can to rehire hundreds of workers and restart operations should the FTAA be renewed as it aims to contribute to the country’s economic recovery amid the pandemic.

OceanaGold’s FTAA covers some 10,000 hectares. Out of that, only 975 hectares have an approved environmental compliance certificate and only 330 hectares are being utilized.

An FTAA is entered into between a contractor and the government for the large-scale exploration, development and utilization of gold, copper, nickel, chromite, lead, zinc and other minerals. It is granted to foreign-owned corporations seeking to operate in the Philippines.

OceanaGold Philippines accounts for one-third of the global business of the company. Its other operations are in New Zealand and the United States.

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