By CLEMENTE BAUTISTA
The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment is at the forefront of the environmental movement in the Philippines. Among its major campaigns is the struggle against large-scale and foreign mining. In the course of the struggles of our member organizations and grassroots communities, Kalikasan has won many battles against corporate mining.
In June 2015, Anglo-Swiss mining firm Glencore, the fourth biggest mining company in the world, was driven out of the Philippines by the widespread and strong opposition movement down at the local up to the international community. It suffered the same fate as the Australian junior mining company Lafayette which went bankrupt in 2008 after failing to resume operations due to stiff resistance from the host community and environmental groups.
Kalikasan played a crucial role in both campaigns through rallying national and international solidarity support to gain global exposure and bring the fight to the countries where the mining corporations are based.
We now gear for another struggle against an emerging corporate mining plunderer – OceanaGold.
Established as a junior mining company in 1989, OceanaGold is a multinational gold producer with multimillion-dollar mining stakes in Australia, El Salvador, New Zealand, Philippines and the United States. It has one operating mine in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya in Philippines and two in New Zealand, with another project in South Carolina, US underway. As of the first quarter of 2016, it has a total net equity of more than $1.1 billion.
The mounting people’s struggle against Oceanagold has already gained small victories such as the temporary stoppage of expansion efforts in Dipidio. As the state of the environment under mining worsens, the people’s movement against large-scale and foreign mining will intensify.
Plunder and Violations in the Philippines
In 2006, a merger between Oceanagold and ClimaxArimco Mining Corporation (CAMC) enabled OceanaGold to acquire the mining agreement in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya. The Philippine government awarded the agreement to CAMC in 1994.
But because of the strong resistance of the local communities alongside a vigorous national anti-mining campaign, OceanaGold was forced to delay the project for almost two decades. OceanaGold started its commercial operation in its Didipio Gold mine in 2013.
Several anti-mining activists and indigenous people leaders have been killed in the course of the struggle in Nueva Vizcaya. Hundreds of individuals have been displaced by demolition and other socio-economic impacts their communities. In a recent study, Filipino scientist group AGHAM confirmed the alarming rate of environmental degradation and pollution in the area.
OceanaGold’s operations in other countries
OceanaGold’s track record is consistent in its operations in other countries. In 1989, the OceanaGold bought the Macraes Mining Company tenements in New Zealand from BHP Gold Mines and Golden Point Mining. Since then, it has operated the Macraes open pit (1990) and the Frasers underground mine (2008) in Otago region, South Island of New Zealand. It is currently New Zealand’s largest gold producing operation. In its two decades of operation in Macraes mine alone, OceanaGold was able to extract 3 million ounces of gold.
In November 2013, OceanaGold acquired the El Dorado mining in El Salvador from Canadian-owned Pacific Rim Mining Corp. The El Dorado mining covers 14,407 hectares with high content of gold and silver deposits.
The El Salvadorian government imposed a mining moratorium nationwide forbidding OceanaGold to mine in the area because of the severe water crisis caused by mining in the country.
As a response, OceanGold/Pacific Rim sued the El Salvadorian government in 2009 for US$301 million in the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) at the World Bank. The El Salvadorian government has expended $12 million in legal cost only.
International unity and support
In August 2015, the International People’s Conference on Mining (IPCM) resolved to conduct a coordinated campaign against OceanaGold. A campaign core group was created comprising of the following organizations: Kalikasan PNE, Amianan Salakniban, and the Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan (ANNVIK) of the Philippines, Pacific Resource Asia Center of Japan, Kairos Canada, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines (APDP), ANCoMP (Australian National Campaign on Mining in the Philippines), Migrante of Australia, and Radio Victoria and Asociation de Desarrollo Economica Social Santa Marta of El Salvador.
Several protest actions has since been conducted across the globe. In the recent OceanaGold General Assembly in Toronto Canada last June 9, Canadian solidarity groups denounced the environmental and human rights violations of the company in the Philippines and El Salvador.
Last June 21, 2016, Mines and Communities protested in front of the venue of mining confab in London where an OceanaGold official was one of the main speakers. In Australia, workers’ unions, migrant groups, and environmental groups continue to have regular protest actions on the last Friday of every month to expose the record of and pressure OceanaGold. The last one was in June 26, 2016.
In El Salvador, there is a strong solidarity network such as the Stop ES Network in the United States for the campaign against OceanaGold dispute case at the World Bank. Several actions have been made to pressure OceanaGold and World Bank to drop the case.
Since June 17, 2016, there is an ongoing community barricade in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines which was already able to temporarily stop the expansion of OceanaGold.
Last July 16, 2016, Kalikasan, together with Filipino scientist group AGHAM, the USA chapter of Filipino multi-sectoral alliance BAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance), IPCM, and the International Allies against Mining in El Salvador (Stop ES Mining) initially launched the international campaign on OceanaGold in a forum in New York.
While the national campaigns and local resistance against OceanaGold operations in the Philippines and El Salvador continues, solidarity campaigns and groups in Australia, Canada and US have pledged to provide the needed international exposure and support.
Indeed, a global front against OceanaGold is fast growing. As long as we continue to strengthen our unity in resolute people’s struggle, the future is bright for the global resistance against OceanaGold and other mining plunderers.
Clemente Bautista is the national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment in the Philippines. He is also the regional coordinator of the Oil Watch – Southeast Asia, and the Yes to Life, No to Mining Network.For comments, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is a contribution to stories around the world in time for the 2016 Global Day of Action against Mega-Mining on July 22.