Foreign companies operating in the country have been affected by the global financial crisis. After the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company in Benguet and the Anvil Mining Ventures in Itogon, it is now the OceanaGold, which is taking measures to cushion the impact of the crisis.
BY ACE ALEGRE
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms. north of Manila) – Australian OceanaGold has announced that the Didipio gold-copper project in Nueva Vizcaya has been put on “care and maintenance” due to the global financial crisis.
This after the 72-year old mining giant Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company in Mankayan, Benguet and the Australian-owned Anvil Mining Ventures in Itogon, also in Benguet had also adopted company measures to cushion the impact of the crisis.
Lepanto has implemented the much-criticized “15-day work-rotation scheme” among its 1,400 surface and underground workers since November. Anvil-Philippines, which traces its roots to Anvil Mining Ventures primarily operating in Republic of Congo, has suspended its exploration work in Poblacion and Ampucao, both in Itogon.
Clemente Bautista Jr., national coordinator of Philippine environmental group Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) said, “(OceanaGold) is just one step shy from totally closing down though they just won’t admit it.” The group has been criticizing the mining firm for posing environmental problems including alleged rights abuses against indigenous peoples.
OceanaGold has reportedly incurred millions of dollars of loans from sources abroad that have now become insurmountable for the company to repay.
Under its ‘care and maintenance’ operations, Bautista said, the company would only continue to incur and accumulate losses.
According to Oceanagold’s December 3 statement, this decision was arrived at after the company’s strategic review and was attributed to the current global financial crisis. Instead of the Didipio project, the firm said, that they would focus on its New Zealand gold operations “as a means of maximizing revenues and strengthening their financial position.”
The news was also welcomed by Oxfam- Australia, the Australian chapter of a group of non-governmental organizations from three continents working worldwide against poverty and injustice.
Its executive director Andrew Hewett said, “many members of the community were vehemently opposed to the project, which had been dogged by controversy and allegations of human rights abuse.” These included, he said, harassment and intimidation, and the demolition of people’s homes often without a court order to do so or without sufficient compensation. In the worst incident, a local man was shot by a security guard employed by the mine (last year), added Hewett.
A local community member had declared the announcement as an ‘early Christmas gift’ for the people. “While the current financial crisis is clearly a factor here, OceanaGold’s poor social record in Didipio would no doubt have been off-putting for potential investors,” said Hewett.
At the community’s invitation, Oxfam Australia conducted a five-year investigation into the project, which resulted in the publication of a major report a year ago that found many villagers in Didipio complaining of harassment and intimidation by agents of the mine operator. Alleged tactics included attempting to pressure people to sell their land at a price determined by OceanaGold and threatening legal proceedings against illiterate farmers. These allegations were flatly denied by OceanaGold.
Oxfam Australia has also called on the Australian mining industry and Parliament to establish an independent complaints mechanism to help resolve complaints from communities affected by Australian mining operations overseas and avoid situations such as those that occurred in Didipio.(Bulatlat.com)