Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) has denounced the renewal of the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) of Australian-Canadian miner OceanaGold Corporation (OceanaGold) amid environmental concerns.
In a statement, ATM “strongly denounced” the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to renew the mining contract for the Didipio gold-copper mining project in Nueva Vizcaya.
“The DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] has failed to uphold its mandate of ensuring a safe a sound ecology for Novo Vizcayanos. The NCIP [National Commission on Indigenous Peoples] has neglected to promise and protect the rights of indigenous communities – the Bungkalots, the Tuwalis, and the Ifugas – who are residing and living in their ancestral domains affected by the mine,” ATM said.
It was just two days ago when OceanaGold announced that it has already obtained the renewed FTAA for Didipion mine. This was two years ago since the deal expired and was faced with many regulatory setbacks.
The FTAA, which will be effective until 2044, was granted on condition that, among others, the company will sell 10 percent of its local subsidiary, OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI), to the public within the next three years.
Based on the new FTAA, OceanaGold must also allocate the equivalent of an additional 1.5 percent of its gross revenue in community development, as well as reclassify Net Smelter Return to be an allowable deduction and shared 60/40 percent rather than wholly included in government share.
At the same time, the company must also sell to Philippine Central Bank not less than 25 percent of its annual gold doré production at fair market price and mutually agreed upon terms.
Despite these new terms, which were identified to make the deal more favorable to the Philippines, ATM still thought that the renewal of the FTAA “is a betrayal of the Filipino people and the disrespects the rights of the affected communities”.
“The local residents and even the local governments from the barangay, municipal and provincial levels have articulated their opposition to the re-opening of the mines. And these calls to protect lives and livelihoods against a destructive mining project have fallen on deaf ears,” ATM said.
“Most important, President Duterte has deserted his campaign promise that he will not allow mining to destroy the forests, rivers, and food sources of the Filipinos. But this is precisely what the Didipio mines have brought to the province of Nueva Vizcaya,” it added.
To recall, there is ongoing opposition against the Didipio mine project coming from the local government unit (LGU) of Nueva Vizcaya, one of its host provinces.
When OGPI’s FTAA expired in 2019, Nueva Vizcaya Governor Carlos Padilla was quick to order to stop the company’s operations. He was also the one who ordered to construct a barricade surrounding the Didipio mine site.
In July last year, the Court of Appeals (CA) also did not rule in favor of OGPI when the latter made a petition to counter the move of Padilla and resume operations.
For its part, ATM said it “stands with the people of Nueva Vizcaya in rejecting this decision”.
“We will continue to support the resistance and struggles against the Didipio Mines led by our local members DESAMA and BILEG. We will continue to shout and act against this injustice,” the group further said.
Meanwhile, OceanaGold is preparing to rehire and train people amid the upcoming resumption of its operations. The company aims to achieve full underground production capacity within the next 12 months.