BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: Australian-Canadian copper and gold mining company OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) operating in the village of Didipio in Kasibu Town welcomes the audit by the national government “to prove its track record as a responsible operator” in the extractive industry.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez recently ordered OceanaGold audited following a petition by anti-mining activists to cancel its exploration permit renewal for an expansion.
Ramoncito Gozar, senior vice president for communications and external affairs at OceanaGold, said the company supports a transparent audit.
On July 20, anti-mining activists, together with Nueva Vizcaya Governor Carlos Padilla, his wife former Governor Ruth Padilla and provincial planning and development chief Edgardo Sabado, met with Lopez at a dialogue in Makati City to air their grievances about their ordeal with mining operations in the province.
Lopez assured Padilla’s group that she would cancel the extended exploration permit period of OceanaGold’s Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) which had been granted by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB). The FTAA extension is valid from March 2016 to 2021.
Lopez also ordered MGB to review the permit granted to OceanaGold.
“The company is ready for any audit and is confident and proud of its track record as a responsible operator. OceanaGold’s Didipio operation is an ISO 14001 certified and the first mining operation to receive such accreditation in 2015, well before it was mandated by the DENR,” Gozar said.
He said the certification contains the criteria for environmental management system, adding that OceanaGold is also operating with OHSAS 18001, a certification on health and safety management systems.
He noted that in 2015, OceanaGold was awarded the Presidential Mineral Industry Environmental Award (PMIEA) for exhibiting an outstanding level of dedication, initiative and innovation in pursuit of excellence in mining operations, environmental, safety, health management and community development.
“With this, any audit would also reveal OceanaGold’s significant contribution to its more than 10 host communities that have been over and above the mandated requirements under the Philippine Mining Act,” Gozar said.
He also noted the establishment of the Didipio Community Development Corporation (DiCorp) to assist the local community in creating a sustainable business through capacity and skills development, employing and benefitting more than a thousand Didipio and neighboring community residents.
“We also have the OceanaGold Sustainable Agroforestry Inc. (OGSAI), our agro-forestry arm that has already reforested over 1,300 hectares of land, planted more than 300,000 trees and donated more than 500,000 seedlings in support of the National Greening Program,” he said.
Gozar said one of the most controversial issues in the mining industry is about water pollution. He said the company has invested resources to protect the source of potable water in affected communities.
“The Didipio Mine Water Treatment Plant we have put up has elevated the water quality of the Didipio River following decades of irresponsible small-scale mining operations that use destructive practices in resource extraction and provide no economic benefit to communities,” Gozar said.
He also said that OceanaGold’s recognition with the PMIEA is reflective of the deep roots of the company founded on 25 years of successful mining operations in New Zealand, one of the most environmentally sensitive countries in the world.
He said OceanaGold has brought these same principles to the Philippines where it has built a strong social license to operate based on the endorsement of the local communities.
“The company is strongly committed as ever to working closely with its many stakeholder groups to continue providing significant benefits and leaving a positive, long-lasting legacy,” Gozar added.
Meanwhile, Padilla has formalized the provincial government’s request to Lopez for the cancellation of OceanaGold’s extended exploration permit for another five years.
In his letter to Lopez, Padilla said that the issuance of the exploration permit extension which resumes the exploration activity of the company seemed to be a “midnight deal and very suspicious.”