By Kalikasan PNE
A plethora of grievances and demands regarding the operations of Australian large-scale miner OceanaGold were presented by environmental advocates and community leaders to Director Leo Jasareno and other head officials of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in a dialogue held yesterday at the MGB national office.
“The evidence is strong that OceanaGold’s Didipio Mine has caused much destruction to the environment, lives, and livelihood of the frontline grassroots and indigenous communities in Nueva Vizcaya suffering from the mine’s adverse impacts. We demand the immediate suspension of OceanaGold’s operations until the necessary investigative, rehabilitative and punitive measures are implemented,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), one of the lead participating organizations in the dialogue.
The other petitioners include the AGHAM-Advocates of Science & Technology for the People, Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan (ANNVIK), Samahang pang Karapatan ng Katutubong Magsasaka at Manggagawa (SAPAKKMMI), University of the Philippines – Minggan, and the Office of Bayan Muna Party-list. Rep. Karlos Zarate.
In a position paper presented to the MGB, Kalikasan PNE and its local and national partner organizations cited fact-finding and environmental investigative mission reports from 2013 to the present which documented various cases of economic, social, cultural and other human rights violations involving OceanaGold, as well as scientifically testing the pollution levels in the water and sediments of river systems directly affected by the mine’s tailings facilities.
“The case of OceanaGold’s Didipio mine, widely acclaimed within the large-scale mining industry as ‘the overall safest mining operation in the Philippines’, is illustrative of the pollutive, destructive, and dangerous brand of ‘responsible mining’ permitted and encouraged by our mining laws and other related policies,” the groups said in a position paper presented to the MGB.
Aside from the petition for immediate suspension and a subsequent comprehensive investigation, the groups also called for the just compensation to communities and the environment that were affected by OceanaGold’s environmental and socio-economic impacts, and a review of local and national policies relevant to the case of the mining company, including but not limited to the Mining Act of 1995, Pollution Control Law, and the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, among others.
Dir. Jasareno agreed that the recommendations of the petitioners were “very sensible,” and proposed a multi-disciplinary team investigation in the soonest possible time involving representatives from all parties concerned. Jasareno also promised the MGB’s full cooperation with the efforts of the environmental groups to hold OceanaGold accountable, including the petitioners’ request for relevant public documents.
The environmental advocates noted of early stumbling blocks, however, as their request for a copy of the company’s Environmental Impact Statement from the MGB had inhibitive costs for reproduction and certification amounting up to P30,000.00.
“We are very much open to a joint and independent investigation with the MGB, but hope the process does not play out as a tool to prolong the confirmed ongoing impacts of OceanaGold’s Didipio Mine. OceanaGold’s operations should immediately be suspended until the investigation and its subsequent remediations are concluded,” reiterated Bautista.###