Gov’t rejects Oceanagold’s plea to transport remaining ore from suspended mine

Published October 12, 2020, 1:18 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has rejected the request of the Australian-Canadian miner Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI) to transport the remaining ore from its suspended mine site in Barangay Didipio in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya. 

In his letter to OGPI General Manager David Way, MGB Regional Director Mario Ancheta said the issuance of Ore Transport Permit (OTP) to the mining firm must “be held in abeyance until such time the renewal of the FTAA [Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement] is granted” to the company.

This, or if there is already an executive agreement between the Local Government Unit (LGU) and the company that the delivery will be allowed to pass in the established checkpoints and “ensure no untoward incident will happen”.

OGPI made the request after the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Kasibu municipality issued a resolution of no-objection to the application for the said OTP.

In its resolution, Kasibu SB said it recognized the importance and benefits that the people of Kasibu may receive from the transport of copper from the Didipio mine, particularly on the part of the employees of OGPI who are needing their jobs especially at this time of COVID-19 pandemic. 

To recall, it has been more than a year already since the firm’s FTAA for the Didipio underground gold and copper mine project in Nueva Vizcaya expired.

OGPI has also been facing opposition from the local government unit (LGU) of Nueva Vizcaya for the project.

In June last year, Nueva Vizcaya Governor Carlos Padilla released an order to stop the company’s operation as soon as its FTAA expired. At that time, a barricade was established surrounding the Didipio mine site.  

Right now, there can only be two ways for OceanaGold’s mining operation in the Philippines to resume, which is either through the Office of the President’s approval of its FTAA renewal or if the LGU of Nueva Vizcaya, the host community for the project, will backtrack on its decision to restrict the company from accessing its mine site.  

For its part, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) commended the decision of the MGB, an attached agency to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), to reject the application of a mining company in Nueva Vizcaya to transport its ores.

However, it said that the government and the company must ensure to mitigate or eliminate the economic and social displacement that may happen because of the closure. 

“While our alliance empathizes with the very challenging situation faced by mineworkers in the town of Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya that is hosting the mine operations, we remind both the DENR and elected local government officials that OGPI has no legal standing to operate because its mining contract is expired and has failed to secure its renewal,” ATM said.

“Our alliance demands that OGPI immediately implement the Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan (FMRDP) and that the DENR and the LGUs are tapped to enforce and monitor its implementation,” it added.  

In August, OceanaGold said in a filing with the Australian Stock Exchange that  it has re-endorsed its application at the OP for the renewal of its FTAA.

“A working team created by the President [of the company] completed a review of the FTAA renewal, which included engagement with the Company, before re-endorsing the renewal to the Office of the President where it remains for a decision,” OceanaGold said. 

It also said that sans the FTAA, the company will be forced to decide by mid-October on the “on-going status of the Didipio workforce as temporary lay-offs commenced in mid-April”.