OceanaGold set to restart Didipio operations
President Duterte has approved the renewal of Australian-Canadian OceanaGold Corp.’s mining franchise in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya province, for another 25 years, Malacañang confirmed.
The decision was made despite strong opposition from the local government unit of Nueva Vizcaya, several green groups, and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
In a statement released on Wednesday, OceanaGold said that its request for the renewal of its Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) was finally approved after expiring in 2019. This would allow the firm to continuously exploit the mineral resources in Didipio, like high-grade copper and gold.
OceanaGold said it was planning to restart its operations in the province “with milling to recommence as soon as possible.”
“The company aims to achieve full underground production capacity within 12 months. Once fully ramped-up, the company expects Didipio to produce about 10,000 gold ounces and 1,000 tons of copper per month,” it said.
Environmental group Kalikasan, in a statement, said Mr. Duterte, through his decision, “condemned the people of Nueva Vizcaya to 25 more years of water depletion, agricultural losses, and human rights violations.”
It added that it would challenge the franchise renewal in court, along with other allied groups and people’s organizations.
OceanaGold’s franchise renewal is the latest in an expected string of promining policies that Mr. Duterte will approve following the signing of Executive Order (EO) No. 130.
The EO effectively lifted the nine-year ban on the approval of new mining permits, instituted by his predecessor, the late President Benigno Aquino III.
Mines and Geoscience Bureau director Wilfredo Moncano said they were now studying the lifting of the ban on the use of open-pit mines next and were set to approve at least 30 new mining projects by year-end.
Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones, in an earlier interview with Inquirer, said the Duterte administration would be pushing for the revival of the mining industry to reinvigorate the coronavirus-battered economy, adding that the agency would also strengthen measures to avoid environmental destruction and intensify support to mining host communities.
OceanaGold’s FTAA renewal came with several conditions, the most notable of which was the mandatory listing of at least 10 percent of the common shares of its Philippine operation subsidiary, OceanaGold Philippines, in the local stock exchange within the next three years.
It also has to allocate 1.5 percent of its gross revenue to community development.
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