Green groups call on governments to halt OceanaGold’s mine expansion
ATM Statement | March 2, 2023
Human rights and environmental groups from the Philippines joined five other countries, namely Australia, Canada, Aotearoa New Zealand, the United States, and El Salvador, in calling their governments “to acknowledge the irresponsible activities of OceanaGold around the world, and to halt the company’s plans to expand its mine.”
The groups said in a statement that they have gathered documents from affected communities and conducted detailed studies of the corporation to make an urgent appeal to governments to halt the company's expansion.
“We do so in the name of present and future generations and the well-being of our earth and its precious waters. These documents and studies present a damning case of widespread human rights and environmental abuse, as well as threats to endangered species, conservation lands, watersheds, and indigenous communities. We feel it is vital for the governments and peoples of all six countries to see the record of OceanaGold’s irresponsibility and abuses across our countries,” they said.
“Here in the Philippines, the Commission of Human Rights has found OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) as having abused the rights of the local communities in its mining operations in Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya,” said Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM). “The fact-finding mission of the CHR in 2011 even recommended the revocation of their mining contract.”
In April 2020, members of local communities set up a blockade in Didipio to stop the company from further operating since the mining permit of OGPI has expired the year before. However, a 100-strong team of police escorted tankers of OGPI to enter the mine site. Some 29 members of the indigenous Tuwali people, among those peacefully barricading, mostly women, were overwhelmed by the large police force and a violent dispersal ensued.
“Indigenous women, like myself, who were at the forefront of the barricades suffered physical injuries, and psychological and emotional trauma,” said Myrna Duyan of Bileg Dagiti Babbae.
A few months after the violent encounter, OGPI’s permit was secretly renewed despite the resistance of the communities and amidst the Covid pandemic.
Eduardo Ananayo of Didipio Earth Savers Multi-purpose Association, Inc. (DESAMA) also said that the renewal of OGPI’s permit “can only be considered illegal, especially because it poses a danger to our farmlands, our livelihoods and our very survival”.
“There is a risk that the ponds of OGPI, which contain toxins, will overflow during typhoons,” he said. The groups’ report said that climate-related risks of river overflows and increased erosion have been documented in the years since 2019.
“The threats on the lives against the people of Didipio not only come from the government and OGPI, but the environment itself as it suffers heavily from the ravages of the mines and climate change. In the series of typhoons that hit Luzon, Didipio communities experienced heavy flooding and flashfloods,” said Judy A. Pasimio, from LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights). “OGPI mining operations, at all fronts, pose clear and present danger. It must be stopped.”
The report also said that the “direct threat to the lives of women and indigenous community leaders are serious as they have faced red-tagging (that is, being termed as members of the communist party) with little or no evidence besides their continued opposition to the Didipio mines of OGPI.”
Despite the decision of the national government to approve the mining contract, the local communities are determined to continue the fight against OGPI’s operations.
Provincial Governor Carlos Padilla said “our local government remains firm in our call for OGPI to shut down its operation in Didipio. We also strongly oppose any expansion of its mining operations.”
“We will not waver in our opposition to the mining operations as we demand from government that it recognize OGPI’s violations and stop the company from further operating,” said Romy Robles of Risktaker - Alyansa ng Mamamayan para sa Kalikasan Ng Kasibu (Risktaker-AMKKAS)
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