MANILA – Environmental groups picketed the office of the Australian large-scale mining corporation OceanaGold, today March 4, as it starts its tunneling activities for its underground mining amidst resisting indigenous and peasant communities.
“With virtually no legitimate consultation in this phase of its mine project, and with multiple outstanding violations of environmental, socio-economic and land rights, OceanaGold’s potentially hazardous expansion should immediately be stopped and its operations should be halted,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
Among the protesters were community residents under the Alyansa ng mga Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan (Annvik) and the Didipio Earth Savers Multipurpose Association (Desama), and the University of the Philippines-based environment group Minggan.
An environmental investigative mission held in 2014 by Kalikasan PNE, in partnership with ANNVIK, scientist group AGHAM, and supported by the Ecosystem Alliance, revealed that sediment samples were 7.4 times above the severe-effect level for benthic organisms, and that water samples meanwhile were two times above the safe levels for irrigation use and eight times above the safety levels for aquatic organisms.
Bautista said that “local communities are already experiencing damages to their properties because of OceanaGold’s constant blasting activities right beneath their lands. The freshwater table is also reportedly quickly drying up as the mine operations continue to deplete its reserves.”
“While Novo Vizcayanos are suffering from land subsidence, heavily silted and polluted rivers, and massive community displacement spurred by OceanaGold, we continue to gain nothing in return from their enterprise,” he added.
Bautista said that OceanaGold refuses to pay its outstanding taxes to the local government and compensation to landowners in Didipio.
“That it has already plundered at least 30,000 metric tons of copper means that there is 30,000 metric tons worth of what could have been used for genuine national industrialization and people’s development,” said Bautista.
Photos and text by Kalikasan-PNE