The Philippine government has already finalized the updated Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) with Australian-Canadian miner OceanaGold Corporation (OceanaGold) nearly two years since the major mining deal expired.
Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Wilfredo Moncano told Business Bulletin that discussions on this matter already concluded and that the new FTAA now awaits the signature of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.
After that, the FTAA will be forwarded to the Office of the President (OP) for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.
FTAA is a contract that allows a foreign-owned mining firm to operate in the Philippines as well as explore and utilize the country’s mineral resources.
The deal also gives the government a pre-determined share in the mining project.
OceanaGold’s 25-year FTAA with the Philippine government expired in 2019, a year after it lodged its application for renewal for the deal.
“Oceana Gold’s renewal is still with Secretary Cimatu for his signature on the recommendation made by the Philippine Negotiation Panel comprised of the DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources], MGB, and DOF [Department of Finance],” Moncano said.
“Once signed by the DENR Secretary, this will be forwarded to the OP,” he added.
He further noted that “the negotiation on the new terms and condition on the FTAA renewal was done already and Oceana agreed to it”.
Once signed by Duterte, the new FTAA will allow OceanaGold to re-open the Didipio gold and copper mine in Nueva Vizcaya, one of the largest gold and copper mines in the country.
Amid the extended closure of Didipio, OceanaGold had to conduct the first round of permanent layoffs in October of last year where 496 employees and miners lost their jobs.
Along with the termination of direct employees, approximately 400 people working with contractors were also impacted, OceanaGold said.
Nevertheless, in December, the government finally re-started the negotiations on OceanaGold’s FTAA renewal, which came after the granting of a Certification of Non-Overlap (CNO) to the company, which stated that the area of its mining operations is outside of an ancestral domain.
This was despite the opposition that the local government of Nueva Vizcaya has expressed towards the project.
In 2019, Nueva Vizcaya Governor Carlos Padilla released an order to stop the company’s operation as soon as its FTAA expired and ordered the establishment of a barricade surrounding the Didipio mine site.
The Court of Appeals (CA) likewise decided to junk in July last year OceanaGold’s petition to resume operations.
The petition was for CA to issue an injunction as a temporary measure to allow interim operations of the Didipio Mine while OceanaGold challenges the legality of the order issued by the Governor of Nueva Vizcaya to restrain the activities of the company pending the renewal of its FTAA.
At the time, however, the company maintained “authority over the Didipio Mine” and said that “the Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7160) does not grant the power or authority to the Provincial Governor or any local government officer to restrain any aspect of the Didipio Mine operations”.
Meanwhile, based on a document obtained from MGB, OceanaGold also recently secured a “Stay Order” from the government.
This means that despite unresolved environmental issues raised against it by former and late Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez, it can already operate once its new FTAA is signed.
“OGPI [Oceana Gold Philippines Inc.] appealed to the OP by reason of the suspension order of former Secretary Gina. If not for the expired FTAA, OGPI could have resumed operations,” Moncano further explained.
“The only constraint [to its resumption] is the renewal,” he further said.
Business Bulletin reported the other day that the government decided to issue a “Stay Order” on some mining companies that Lopez decided to suspend and shut down back in 2017.
The “Stay Order” was the government’s temporary measure to allow these mining companies to operate pending the decision of the OP regarding the suspension and cancellation orders issued to them by Lopez.
MGB document shows that the other companies that received a “Stay Order” are Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company and Far Southest Gold Resources Inc. for their gold mine in Benguet; Citinickel Mines and Development Corporation for its nickel mine in Palawan; Benguet Corporation for its gold mine in Benguet; Hinatuan Mining Corp. for its nickel mine in Surigao del Norte; and Marcventures Mining and Development for its gold and copper mine in Surigao del Sur.
The same order was also issued to Adnama Mining Resources, Inc., Libjo Mining Corporation, Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corporation as authorized operator of Norweah Metals and Minerals Co., Inc., Sinosteel Philippines H.Y Mining Corporation, and LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc. as authorized operator of Filipinas Mining Corporation.