Suspended gold mine should return to Vizcaya indigenous communities - green group

Suspended gold mine should return to Vizcaya indigenous communities - green group
Photo shows a scene at OceanaGold's Didipio mine.

MANILA, Philippines — The land where a suspended gold and copper mine in Nueva Vizcaya province stands should be returned to indigenous communities, an environmental group said Wednesday.

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said the government should return the mineralized lands to the indigenous communities “who rightfully own the land” after Australian-Canadian miner OceanaGold suspended production at its mine in Brgy. Didipio in Kasibu town.

“The suspension of the OceanaGold mine is a hard-fought victory for the people of Vizcaya long suffering from deception, threat and intimidation, ecological harm and violence,” Leon Dulce, Kalikasan national coordinator, said.

The lapse of the company’s Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement last June means the tenement area should be returned to the effective ownership of the state, which in turn is obliged to return the land to the ancestral domain of the indigenous Tuwali-Ifugao communities, Kalikasan said.

“Duterte should demonstrate his avowed opposition to destructive mines by respecting the Vizcaya indigenous people’s right to self-determination over the mineralized lands,” Dulce said.

He added: “The Duterte government must also ensure that OceanaGold immediately rehabilitates the devastated ecosystems and landscapes left in the wake of their operations.”

Job security of affected workers

Kalikasan also called on the company to “ensure the transition of their workers toward secure jobs and livelihoods including rationalized minerals utilization and environmental rehab work.”

The Didipio mine directly employed 1,500 workers when operational. Ninety-seven percent of the workers are Filipinos.

According to a Reuters report, the mid-tier miner had sought renewal of its 25-year operating license for Didipio but the local government wants the mine shut due to environmental concerns.

OceanaGold president and CEO Mick Wilkes was quoted as saying in the report that the company has “no other choice but to temporarily suspend production at Didipio” with the timing of the Court of Appeals injunction decision uncertain and efforts to finalize FTAA renewal ongoing.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had endorsed OceanaGold’s application for FTAA renewal to Duterte’s office, who found it incomplete. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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