AUSTRALIAN miner OceanaGold Corp. on Tuesday assured stakeholders that its Didipio copper-gold mine in the province of Nueva Vizcaya continues to operate without interruption despite the reported suspension order from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) due to complaints from affected residents.
“I am highly confident that our Didipio operations will continue to operate without interruption as the Didipio Mine sets the benchmark for responsible mining based on international best practices and serves as the template for the type of operation that President [Rodrigo] Duterte and his administration are seeking for all mining operations in the Philippines as they advance a responsible mining sector,” said Mick Wilkes, OceanaGold president and chief executive officer.
Wilkes added that they are firmly maintaining the 2016 production and cost guidance for the operation of its local unit OceanaGold Philippines.
For this year, the company expects to produce 385,000 to 425,000 ounces of gold from the combined New Zealand and Didipio operations and 19,000 to 21,000 tons of copper from the Didipio operation at all-in sustaining costs of $700 to $750 per ounce.
The company has recently engaged directly with the DENR Secretary Gina Lopez and other senior government officials to gain clarity on the findings identified with respect to the Didipio operation.
“Discussions with government officials including Sec. Lopez have been constructive and the company will continue to engage with all stakeholders to demonstrate the many achievements and attributes of its operations in country and the significant benefits the mine has delivered thus far to its communities,” Wilkes said.
Earlier, Environment Undersecretary Leo Jasareno said OceanaGold Philippines may lose its permit to explore adjacent areas surrounding its Didipio mine following complaints from Nueva Vizcaya residents.
Leo Jasareno, the former director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), said they are now reviewing the permit granted to OceanGold in March this year, which allows the company to conduct exploration activities in the broader region surrounding Didipio over the next five years.
Jasareno said residents were complaining of the possible effect of expanded mining activity in the area since the exploration area is a rich agricultural land.
OceanaGold’s mining claim covers around 15,000 hectares, but the company has only explored and developed around 900 hectares.
The company earlier said it has mobilized additional resources to further identify and build its pipeline of targets within the 13,000-hectare area while commencing drilling of the more advanced targets in the second half of 2016.
“Yung [The] exploration area is a rich agricultural area, citrus capital of Nueva Vizcaya. Meron silang [They have a] program for agro-forest. The LGU [local government unit]wants to use land for agro-forestry rather than exploration,” he said.
“We will clarify that. If it can be found that the petitions are valid, then the secretary will have to withdraw the permit. We will investigate,” he added.
The Didipio mine is a high-grade gold-copper open pit and underground mine in Nueva Vizcaya. It is one of the lowest-cost gold mines in the world, with nominal production of 100,000 ounces of gold and 14,000 tons of copper. It has an estimated reserve of 1.59 million ounces of gold and 210,000 tons of copper. It had its first full year of operation in 2014.
OceanaGold holds significant exploration tenements in the Philippines and the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) covers approximately 158 square kilometers located in the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino.
Joey Leviste, chairman of OceanaGold Philippines, earlier said they are willing to investment more in the Philippines but there should be a consistent policy that is investor friendly.