‘No defying suspension order’
SANTIAGO CITY, Isabela—OceanaGold Philippines Inc., which runs the Didipio gold-copper mine in Nueva Vizcaya, reiterated Thursday it was not defying any suspension order by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources after the Office of the President allowed it to resume its operations.
David Way, general manager of OceanaGold’s Didipio project, said that after receiving the DENR suspension order, the company filed an appeal directly with the office President Rodrigo Duterte, which stayed the order.
“In accordance with the rules and regulations, OceanaGold appealed to the President, which stayed the execution of the suspension order, allowing us to continue operating during the appeals process,” Way said.
However, anti-mining groups here claimed that large-scale mining companies like OGPI—among 75 mining firms ordered shut down by Environment Secretary Reginal Lopez last month—have continued their operations despite DENR’s mine closure and suspension orders.
Last week, the Samahang Pang-Karapatan ng Katutubong Magsasaka at Manggagawa or Sapakkmmi and the Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayano para sa Inang Kalikasan or Annvik picketed the mine’s entrance at Didipio, claiming OceanaGold flouted Lopez’s suspension order.
Didipio village officials said the groups demanded the company’s compliance. Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, also claimed the closure and suspension of big mining companies remained in force, “but these notorious offenders are still operating with impunity.”
“These corporations should be penalized for stonewalling against the government’s regulations and prolonging the suffering of affected communities,” Dulce said.
However, Mick Wilkes, OceanaGold President and Chief Executive Officer, said the Didipio operation has not violated or breached any Philippines laws, rules or regulations.
Wilkes said OceanaGold “has a successful track record of operating for 27 years in accordance with Australian and Canadian standards on health, safety, environment, community and sustainability across all our operations.”
He said he “strongly believes that the Didipio operation is the template for what President Duterte is seeking in his desire for a responsible mining sector in the Philippines.”
“We are an environmentally and socially responsible mining company and has delivered meaningful benefits to a multitude of stakeholders in the host communities that support the mine in the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino,” Wilkes said.
He said the company “has the strong endorsement from our host communities to operate, and are a major employer of Filipino nationals, majority of whom are from the local communities. A suspension of operations will adversely impact thousands of Filipinos directly and indirectly.”