OceanaGold in Nueva Vizcaya shut down

Artemio Dumlao - The Philippine Star

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Alleged failure of mining giant OceanaGold Corp. to comply with local government-set requirements on their Nueva Vizcaya operations has prompted local officials to shut down the mining firm.

A closure order was issued July 12, a week after Kasibu town Mayor Chito Bumolo pointed out OceanaGold’s failures to comply with the local government’s requirements and agreements.

OceanaGold reportedly failed to seek and renew its business permit and barangay clearance and failed to pay local taxes. It also reportedly failed to fulfill its promises set in the memorandum of agreement with the local government unit specifically with the village where its mining operation is held. Moreover, it has also allegedly failed to address the human rights violations complaint filed against its security personnel.

Bumolo gave the company until July 10 to address the complaints and meet the terms set with the local villagers, but the mining firm snubbed it, he claimed.

OceanaGold has been in Kasibu since 1988 when the firm was seeking the needed requirements from the local government unit for their application permits to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources- Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

Now that it is operating and hauling tons of high grade gold and copper, it has stopped dealing with the local government of Kasibu, the mayor said.

The mayor further claimed that the firm has been transacting with Quirino province and yet a big part of the company’s mining area is in Kasibu town. “Does this mean that the company does not recognize anymore Didipio, Kasibu to be a part of Nueva Vizcaya? And that, it is now a part of the province of Quirino?” the mayor said.

The mining operation of OceanaGold lies along the disputed land boundaries of Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya.

The company's trucks that haul tons of the mined rocks pass through Quirino.

Kasibu town is also asking why several conditions set in their memorandum of agreement have not also been met, the most important of which was employment opportunities promised to the local residents who should be given priority over those from other places.

At present, only a few locals from Kasibu are employed, and most employees are not even from Nueva Vizcaya, Bumolo added.

The Mayor further cited that with several human rights violations complaints filed against OceanaGold’s security guards, it has instead pulled out its present security personnel and replaced them with guards from a new security agency.

In December last year, a village councilor and a village watch were killed in a supposed altercation with a security guard of the firm.

Bumolo and the town’s Sangunniang Bayan ordered Oceana Gold Company to cease and desist its operation in the area until it has addressed the filed complaints.

Anti-mining advocates who have lamented the destruction of the environment because of the firm’s operation are calling for a final closure of the company as it has caused irreparable damages to the land, livelihood and the environment, they said. 

A local resident said, “Mano pay laeng nga bulan nga agop-operate dayta nga kumpanya ditoy, makita tayon ti nalawa nga nadadael a daga, aglalo pay nu itulok tayo nga agtultuloy ti aramid da.” (The company has been operating for only few months, yet we see the vastness of destruction it has done to our land; how much more if we allow them to continue operating.)

"Even the indigenous people who worked, developed and protected those lands were displaced by the mining company, why do we still allow them to prevail? We lose our rights to use, to own and protect our lands," said Pacita Balinggan, the acting chairperson of Alliance of Multisectoral Group Against Mining in Dupax del Norte, Nueva Vizcaya.

For some time, five barricades were reportedly set in Kasibu and Dupax Del Norte demanding for OceanaGold’s final closure.  

“The inability of a big company like OceanaGold to fulfill its promises, to abide by the local government’s policies, and to respect the people’s collective will is more than enough ground to finally end its operation, not to mention the great destruction it will cause not just in Nueva Vizcaya but in the whole region, not just in our time but more so with the next generation of our children” said Santos Yonga-an, chairperson of Kasibu Intertribal Response for Ecological Development.

OceanaGold formally resumed its operation in Didipio, Kasibu Nueva Vizcaya last May 15.

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