MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Australian company all at sea?

Published by MAC on 2008-12-09

One of the most contested mining projects in south-east Asia has been put on a "care-and-maintenance" basis until "financial markets...improve".

Although the mine's operator, OceanGold, says it's not closing down, the mine's long-standing opponents are understandably claiming a partial victory. Moreover, according to a government minister, the company may already be negotiating sale of its project stake to local investors.


OceanaGold may sell Philippine mine stake - minister

Reuters

4th December 2008

MANILA - Australia-based OceanaGold is in talks with several investors to sell its controlling stake in the Didipio gold and copper project in the Philippines, the minister in charge of the mining sector said on Thursday.

"I believe they're negotiating for the sale of Didipio," Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza told reporters by phone patch from Las Vegas.

The Australian miner said on Wednesday it had put on hold its $320 million Didipio project amid funding difficulties due to the global credit crisis.

Without giving names, Atienza said there were three local firms interested in the project estimated to produce around 120,000 ounces of gold and 15,000 tonnes of copper concentrate annually in its first 10 years of production.

"We'll wait until they (OceanaGold) finalise an agreement with the new owners," he said.

On Wednesday, Darren Klinck, OceanaGold's spokesman, said the firm had no plans for now to divest itself of its 92 percent interest in the Didipio prospect in the northern Nueva Vizcaya province.

The company said in October it was expecting to start commercial production in January 2010, nearly a year behind its initial plan, while it sought a partner to help fund an additional $185 million for the project.

Investments in the Philippine mining sector, one of the world's biggest and most profitable in the 1970s, have slowed to a trickle as legal uncertainties, disputes with local partners, communist insurgencies and opposition from the Catholic Church have turned off foreign miners.

Only $1.7 billion has flowed into the Southeast Asian nation's mining industry since 2004 when the Supreme Court cleared a law allowing foreigners to own 100 percent of large-scale mining projects.

(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Ben Tan)


Vizcaya mining firm is only on a wait-and-see mode - officials

Floro Taguinod, GMANews.TV

4th December 2008

Nueva Vizcaya,Philippines - A top official of an embattled Melbourne based OceanaGold Philippines operating in this province has denied that the company would soon shut down its operations.

OceanaGold, which attracted local and international media attention for its alleged long list of violations in the management of its mining operations, has been reported to be in the final steps of folding up its multi-billion Didipio Gold-Copper project in Kasibu town.

A statement sent to GMANews.TV by Darren Klinck, OGP's vice president for corporate and investor relations, said: "The Didipio project will be moved into care & maintenance for the near-term until the financial markets and global economic conditions improve, but we are still honoring our commitments in the local and surrounding communities."

Klinck also said that OGP would retain a staff on site at Didipio to secure and maintain the project assets. He said the company would also retain a team in its Manila office.

OGP's corporate decision was seen by anti-mining advocates as groundwork for its way out in the face of mounting pressures from local and international Church and environmental activist groups.

Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator of Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE), said that the statement of OceanaGold is just proof that their operations were not economically feasible and that the company's failure cannot be attributed solely to the present financial crisis.

"The greater factor why the company did not succeed is due to the growing resistance and opposition against OceanaGold by the local communities, "said Bautista.

Some of the offenses attributed to the mining firm were the alleged human rights violations against local residents and indigenous peoples in the area, land grabbing, economic displacement and environmental destructions done while the company was developing its project.

Last August, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, director of CBCP-backed National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), spearheaded urged individuals and institutions here and abroad to support the stoppage of the large-scale mining operations in the country.

Pabillo reported that Bishops from Canada and Australia have sent confirmations of support for the conduct of worldwide massive information campaigns on the effects of large-scale mining, which Pabillo said is expected to pressure mining investors to stop funding mining activities in the country.

In September, Kalikasan-PNE answered Pabillo's call by asking the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. (ANZ) in Makati City and foreign banking firm HSBC, to stop funding OGP's projects.

This was followed by a protest action by members of Action for Peace and Development (APD), an environmental group, which held a vigil in front of the Australia and New Zealand Bank Ltd. (ANZ) office in Sydney.

During the vigil, APD echoed the calls of their Philippine counterparts for ANZ to stop funding OGP's Didipio Gold-Copper mining project.

Similar reactions from other anti-mining fronts followed suit when Shanta Martin, Mining Ombudsman of independent organization-Oxfam Australia, reported that there were indications showing OGP may have resorted to some objectionable actions in order to draw away obstacles that caused delays to their operational timetable.

Currently, there are already nine provinces in the country, including Nueva Vizcaya, which have withdrawn their support to large-scale mining.

The list includes the provinces of Capiz, Western Samar, Northern Samar, Samar, Marinduque, Mindoro Oriental, North Cotabato and Palawan.

On Friday, delegates from regional, local and international environmental groups will be trooping here to conduct a four-day International Solidarity Mission (ISM) in the mountain town of Kasibu and other downstream areas affected by OGP's mining operations.

The ISM, which will be conducted simultaneously with Rapu-Rapu copper mine in Albay, will focus on documenting and validating the economic, social and cultural violations of the mining companies and related environmental and mining-related issues in the target communities. -


Another Arroyo's priority mining project closing down

Press Release, Kalikasan-PNE

4th December 2008

In its latest company update, OceanaGold has announced that they have placed the Didipio gold-copper project, one of the priority projects of the Arroyo government, on "care and maintenance" stage. To which the progressive environmental group Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) sees as prelude to the complete closure of the company's mining operations in Nueva Vizcaya.

"OceanaGold is just one step shy from totally closing down though they just won't admit it. In the past, OceanaGold has loaned millions of dollars that have now become insurmountable for the company to repay. During its 'care and maintenance' stage, the company will only continue to incur and accumulate losses," said Clemente Bautista Jr., national coordinator of Kalikasan-PNE.

This decision was arrived at after the company's strategic review and was attributed to the current global financial crisis, according to OceanaGold's statement, released December 3, 2008. The company said that they would focus on its New Zealand gold operations as a means of maximising revenues and strengthening their financial position.

"The statement of OceanaGold is just a proof that their operations were not economically feasible as the company had projected in the past. However, the failure of OceanaGold cannot be attributed solely to the financial crisis. The greater factor why the company did not succeed is due to the growing resistance and opposition against OceanaGold by the local communities," asserted Bautista.

Bautista pointed out that, "Since the early stage, the indigenous people in Nueva Vizcaya have been opposing the project of OceanaGold. The community resistance further escalated due to the human rights violations, landgrabbing, economic displacement and environmental destruction done by OceanaGold in the process of developing its project. "

"The dying statement of OceanGold will only strengthen our resolve to demand for the complete shutdown of their operations," expressed Santos Mero, spokeperson of Defend Patrimony!, a national multisectoral alliance against plunder of our country's resources by foreign transnational corporations.

As an attestation, Kalikasan-PNE announced that there will be an International Solidarity Mission (ISM) composed of local, regional, national and environmental advocates and groups this December 6-10, in mining affected areas of Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya and in Rapu-Rapu, Albay. Both are flagship-mining projects pushed by the Arroyo Administration's despite domestic and international opposition due to economic and environmental costs.

Bautista explained that, "The ISM is part of our international initiative to channel support to local struggles of the communities and to further consolidate the anti-mining position of numerous groups and sectors. It also aims to document and validate the socio-economic, environmental, political and cultural violations of mining companies and other issues that goes with mining."

"The failure of OceanaGold and of other mining projects as the Rapu-rapu Polymetallic Project are just a couple of illustrations of how mining corporations and activities are bound to collapse due to the fervent opposition of the people, backed up by the present global situation. This should serve as a warning to other companies and investors, how they should think twice before planning to loot our country's mineral wealth," reminded Bautista.

Reference: Clemente Bautista Jr. National Coordinator, Kalikasan-PNE 09228449787

KALIKASAN People's Network for the Environment is a network of people's organizations (POs), non-governmental 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.

Contact:

CLEMENTE BAUTISTA
National Coordinator
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Email: kalikasan.pne@gmail.com
Website: www.kalikasan.org

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