MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Australian miner suspends work after mounting opposition

Published by MAC on 2008-07-01

Aussie mine firm suspends work in Nueva Vizcaya

By Melvin Gascon, Northern Luzon Bureau http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/regions/view/20080625-144718/Aussie-mine-firm-suspends-work-in-Nueva-Vizcaya

25th June 2008

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya--An official of the Australian mining firm OceanaGold Philippines Inc. said the firm is suspending work at its $117-million gold-copper project in upland Kasibu town, amid the controversies hounding its operations over the past six months.

In a statement Tuesday, Darren Clinck, OceanaGold vice president for corporate and investor relations, said the firm is suspending a number of construction contracts as it tries to cut down on company expenses while looking for additional funding.

"As a result, the project completion date is expected to extend beyond mid-year 2009," Clinck said.

A statement on its website also quoted Steve Orr, OceanaGold chief executive officer, as saying the company needs about $185 million in additional cash, and is considering a number of options to meet this need, including acquiring loans and mergers with other companies.

"There has been significant interest in these options from various financial institutions and other gold companies," Orr said.

OceanaGold's announcement came in the wake of controversies that delayed the firm's operations, the latest of which was the injunction issued last week by a local judge on the ongoing demolition of houses at its project site.

Since December, it has been clearing a 425-hectare parcel of land in Didipio for its mineral production site, in an attempt to meet its earlier target to start gold and copper production by February 2009.

Its activities have also been investigated by the House of Representatives' committee on cultural communities, following complaints of alleged violations against residents in the area.

Earth moving work has also been hampered by a cease-and-desist order issued by Governor Luisa Cuaresma for the company's supposed failure to pay the province over P28 million in quarry taxes and business licenses.

OceanaGold, however, clarified that it would continue to maintain around 200 employees assigned to "other project-related activities, community relations, health and safety, and environmental programs."

Ramoncito Gozar, OceanaGold vice president for communications and external affairs, said the work suspension does not mean the company is giving up on the project since it has already spent about $45 million for pre-development work.

"While the company has approximately $95 million in its treasury, we need to put in place supplemental financing for the project," Gozar said.

Vice Governor Jose Gambito said it was "prudent" for the company to suspend its activities to "cool down escalating tension," referring to the ongoing dispute with the provincial government.

"[The decision of suspension] must have been a reaction of stockholders of the company to unsettled issues," Gambito said.

Village officials of Didipio confirmed the scaling down of construction activities in the area, mostly involving projects being carried out by private contractors.

"After a long while, company representatives have consulted members of the [Didipio] council explaining some modifications to the project plan. We'll see what happens next," said village council member Carmen Ananayo.

Peter Duyapat, president of the Didipio Earth-Savers' Multi-purpose Association (Desama), a people's organization that has led opposition to the gold-copper project, said while they welcomed the suspension, they remained wary about it.

"This may be the beginning of victory, but the fight is not over yet. We will remain to be vigilant as we have been in the past," he said.


Environmental activists and indigenous people rejoice over the suspension Oceana Gold mining operation

Kalikasan-PNE Media Release

26th June 2008

Environmental groups and indigenous peoples rejoice over the recent suspension of contrroversial Oceana Gold mining project in Bgy. Didipio kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya. Last June 24, Australian mining firm OceanaGold Philippines Inc. said the firm is suspending work at its $117-million gold-copper project amid the controversies hounding its operations over the past six months. In a company statement, the firm said it is suspending a number of construction contracts as it tries to cut down on company expenses while looking for additional funding.

"We want to congratulate the people of Nueva Vizcaya particularly the indigenous communities in Kasibu and the local government units which steadfastly resisting the plunder and destruction being done by Australian-owned Oceana Gold. Though temporary, this is a big tactical victory for the communities," says Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of militant environmental group Kalikasan-PNE.

"It is not under the good grace and consideration of Oceana Gold why it suspended its mining operation. For two consecutive years, Oceana Gold is losing tens of millions of dollars while the opposition to the project becomes broader and stronger both at the local and national level. These reasons force the company to halt their operation. Oceana Gold's Didipio gold project is becoming more unsustainable and bankcrupt everyday," Mr. Bautista adds.

Based on the annual reports of Oceana Gold, it loss US$23.43 million and US$69.04 million in 2006 and 2007 respectively. This in spite the company has raised additional capital of Canadian $90.00 million in its initial public offering in Toronto Stock Exchange last July 2007.

"Even with the backing of President Gloria Arroyo, DENR Secretary Lito Atienza, and Court of Appeals, we will not buckle down on our campaign to oust the ecologically destructive, human rights violator and tax evader Oceana Gold in the province of Nueva Vizcaya. The large-scale mining operation of Oceana Gold not only brought disunity and confusion in our communities but also massive environmental destruction, intense militarization and higher incidence of crimes," says Allan Barnacha of the provincial multisectoral alliance Save the Valley, Serve the People (SVSP).

The Nueva Vizcaya provincial government issued a cease and desist order against Oceana Gold because of its failure to pay local taxes worth 28 million pesos. The Congressional Committee on National Cultural Communities conducted an on-site investigation last June 7-9, 2008 to look into the several complaints and human rights violations that the indigenous people in the area reported. Recently a local court issued an injunction to stop the on-going demolition of houses by Oceana Gold in Bgy. Didipio.

"Our struggle continues against Oceana Gold and other foreign mining companies trespassing to our communities. We have no recourse but to fight back. The Arroyo administration, the DENR and National Commission on Indigenous People have all shown their indeference to our rights as indigenous people, disrespected and ignored the authority of our local government units. The national government and its agencies have forsaken us in its pursuit of selling off our mineral and ancestral lands. They have the same interest with foreign mining companies to plunder our patrimony," said Lucas Buay of Kasibu Inter-Tribal Response for Ecological Development (KIRED).

In Nueva Vizcaya, about forty percent of its total population is comprised of indigenous people like the Bugkalots, Ifugaos, Ibalois, Gaddangs, Isinais, Ikalahans and Ilongots. In Bgy. Didipio, Ifugao comprises the majority of the indigenous population. ###

Reference: Clemente Bautista 09228449787, Allan Barnacha 09266915703

KALIKASAN- People's Network for the Environment is a network of people's organizations (POs), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and environmental advocates. It believes that the struggle for the environment is a struggle of the people, thus all environmental action shall have the interest of the majority at their core.


Mining company suspends operations in Nueva Vizcaya

Sherry Mae Soledad, RDC-Kaduami - http://www.yehey.com/news/Article.aspx?id=218539

26th June 2008

In a company statement, Oceana Gold said it is suspending a number of construction contracts in Nueva Vizcaya as it tries to cut down on company expenses while looking for additional funding.

Based on the annual reports of Oceana Gold, it lost US$23.43 million and US$69.04 million in 2006 and 2007 respectively. This in spite the company has raised additional capital of Canadian $90.00 million in its initial public offering in Toronto Stock Exchange last July 2007.

Militant environmental group Kalikasan-PNE congratulated the people of Nueva Vizcaya particularly the indigenous communities in Kasibu and the local government units which steadfastly resisted the "plunder and destruction" being done by Australian-owned Oceana Gold.

"For two consecutive years, Oceana Gold lost tens of millions of dollars while the opposition to the project became broader and stronger both at the local and national levels. These reasons forced the company to halt their operations," the group claimed.

Oceana Gold suffered a series of setbacks in recent months. The Nueva Vizcaya provincial government issued a cease and desist order against the firm because of the latter's failure to pay local taxes worth 28 million pesos. Then the Congressional Committee on National Cultural Communities conducted an on-site investigation last June 7-9, 2008 to look into the several complaints and human rights violations that the indigenous people in the area reported. Recently a local court issued an injunction to stop the on-going demolition of houses by Oceana Gold in Bgy. Didipio.

Bayan Muna also greeted the suspension of the mining operations in Nueva Vizcaya.

"As author of a Congressional measure to probe OceanaGold's apparently brazen and illegal operations that have brought discord to the peaceful people of Kasibu, I am further galvanized by this positive initial victory to work harder to protect the long-term interests of the indigenous peoples and the environment in Nueva Vizcaya," Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño said.

Casiño is the author of House Resolutions 594 and 211 mandating the Congressional Committee on National Cultural Communities to probe Australian mining firms OceanaGold and Royalco Resources, respectively, wanting to extract the mineral wealth of Nueva Vizcaya to the detriment of the indigenous peoples, remaining forestlands and the critical watershed areas in the region.

 

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