Palace confirms OceanaGold mine contract renewal

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 15 2021 07:30 PM

Palace confirms OceanaGold mine contract renewal 1
Indigenous Filipinos hold a protest on August 9, 2019 in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources calling for the non-renewal of the large-scale gold and copper mining concession of Australian-Canadian owned Oceanagold in Nueva Vizcaya. Maria Tan, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The Philippine government has renewed Australian-listed OceanaGold Corp's contract for its Didipio gold and copper mine, Malacañang confirmed on Thursday, despite earlier concerns from provincial officials.

"Kinukumpirma ko po na napirmahan na po ‘yong MPSA (mineral production and sharing agreement) ng ating Executive Secretary at ito po’y papunta na sa DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources)," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.

(I confirm that the MPSA has been signed by our Executive Secretary, and it would go to the DENR.)

Reuters reported that OceanaGold requested for the renewal of its operating license in 2018, but it was blocked by the local government because of environmental concerns.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau has described Didipio as a mine that “can be a game changer to the country’s overall standing as copper producer and exporter”.

The three following changes in the contract will benefit residents in Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces, Roque said.

  • The revenue allotment for the social development fund of the provinces will be doubled to 3 percent from 1.5
  • The firm will be required to list at the Philippine Stock Exchange, to allow higher Filipinos ownership 
  • Mandatory transfer of local office, which will result in more business taxes 

"Ang sinasabi lang po natin, merong such a thing as responsible mining. At ‘yan po ngayon ang paghahamon sa ating regulatory agency," he said in a press briefing.

(What we are saying is there is such a thing as responsible mining. And that is the challenge now to our regulator agency.)

The mining industry did not close even when the Philippines imposed the toughest of 4 lockdown levels to arrest the spread of COVID-19, said Roque.

"Itong desisyon pong ito ay pagkilala na kailangan magkaroon pa ng mas maraming trabaho ang ating mga kababayan sa panahon ng pandemya," he said. "Pero hindi po natin papayagan na masira ang inang kalikasan natin."

(This decision is an acknowledgement that our compatriots should have more jobs during the pandemic. But we will not allow nature to be ruined.)

Video courtesy of PTV 

Kalikasan-People's Network for Environment said the fresh license for OceanaGold "has condemned the people of Nueva Vizcaya to 25 more years of water depletion, agricultural losses, and human rights violations."

It said environmental groups would challenge this in court.

The Supreme Court had recently denied OceanaGold's motion for reconsideration against the restraining order imposed by Nueva Vizcaya Governor Carlos Padilla on the mine. This restraining order was upheld previously by the regional trial court in Cagayan Valley, Kalikasan noted.

"We call on our fellow Filipino people and the international community to demand an immediate moratorium on OceanaGold's operations," the group said in a statement.

"Together, let us demand President Rodrigo Duterte to instead support the just recovery and rehabilitation of Nueva Vizcaya's agriculture and nature-based economy, especially in these times of hunger and pandemic."

Duterte in April lifted a nearly 9-year moratorium on new mining agreements, in a move that he said could support economic growth and the administration's multi-billion peso infrastructure drive.

Mining remains a controversial issue in the country due to past examples of environmental mismanagement, and only 3 percent of 9 million hectares identified by the state as having high mineral reserves is mined.

Duterte has repeatedly criticized miners for polluting rivers and destroying forests.

But a government panel in 2018 said 23 out of 27 mines have passed an initial review for compliance with state regulations.

The Philippines is the second biggest supplier of nickel ore to top buyer China, after Indonesia, where it is used to produce stainless steel.

— With a report from Reuters