MGB OKs interim renewal of OceanaGold FTAA

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Mines and Geosciences Bureau is recommending the interim renewal of OceanaGold’s financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA).

This  even as the Office of the President found deficiency in OceanaGold’s FTAA.

“The OP found a deficiency based on the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act. Their first 25 years were not covered by the IPRA law and their area was outside the ancestral domain of the Bugkalot tribe,” MGB director Wilfredo Moncano said in a briefing yesterday.

“But during their renewal, the tribe also filed an application for expansion which technically covered the area of OceanaGold,” he said.

The OP returned the renewal application to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources with the instruction for OceanaGold to comply with the free, prior informed consent (FPIC) by the NCIP.

The interim renewal would allow OceanaGold to continue with their operations.

“We are trying to bring this up to the (DENR) secretary (referring to Roy Cimatu). For me, I will support this, but of course, we don’t know the position of the secretary on this matter,” Moncano said.

“The process with NCIP is a long one and might take two years. Hopefully, we can issue the interim renewal within the year,” he added.

MGB  recommended the interim renewal amid issues with funding agencies and market movements.

 OceanaGold, which operates in Nueva Vizcaya, is listed at the Toronto Stock Exchange.

“That [interim renewal] is an assurance on the part of funding agencies and bankers  that for the next 25 years, their operations can be stable,” Moncano said.

Meanwhile, Alyansa Tigil Mina expressed disappointment over the latest development.

“This interim renewal smells tragically as an attempt of DENR to circumvent the already vague and anti-poor Mining Act of 1995,” ATM said.

This development even becomes more ironic as the government decided to renew this mining contract during the UN General Assembly which had tackled climate change as its main theme,” it said.

An FTAA is entered into between a contractor and the government for the large-scale exploration, development and utilization of gold, copper, nickel, chromite, lead, zinc and other minerals. It is granted to foreign-owned corporations wanting to operate in the Philippines.

The President has the final decision on the grant and renewal of an FTAA upon the endorsement of the MGB and DENR.

Nueva Vizcaya is host to two of the largest mining projects in the country, OceanaGold’s Didipio mine and FCF Mineral’s Rurnruno gold-molybdenum project.

The local government and communities in the province have long been opposed to the mining industry due to its negative impacts to the people and the environment. They are pushing for more development related to ecotourism and agriculture sector.

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