Wednesday 28 September 2016 09:39 AM
OceanaGold seeks explanation after Philippines govt criticism of Didipio
By Jonathan Underhill
Sept. 28 (BusinessDesk) - OceanaGold said it is seeking clarification from the Philippines government after officials from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources named the company's Didipio site among mining operations that could be suspended because of outstanding social issues.
The comments were reportedly made by DENR secretary Gina Lopez and Leo Jasareno, DENR’s senior undersecretary and head of mining audit. Lopez was quoted in the Philippines Star last month as saying she would look into complaints of several environmental groups regarding corrupt officials at DENR. Protesters had come from mining-affected communities including from the Nueva Vizcaya region where the Didipio Gold and Copper mine is located.
Melbourne-based OceanaGold said Didipio was among 23 mining companies named but the company hadn't received any formal order from DENR and "is currently seeking clarification and further details".
"In the meantime, mining and processing activities are continuing at the Didipio Mine," it said in a statement. "The company will consider all avenues, including working collaboratively with the DENR, to facilitate the immediate resolution of this matter to ensure no disruption to our operations and our valued local workforce".
OceanaGold extracted 90,887 ounces of gold and 12,244 tonnes of copper in the first half of the current financial year from Didipio, amounting to 40 percent of total production. Profit soared 174 percent gain in first-half profit, reflecting a recovery in the price of gold and increased production.
Chief executive Mick Wilkes defended the Didipio operation, saying it had "a strong social license to operate".
"Our achievements since recommencement of construction in 2011 would not have been achieved without our steadfast commitment to the community and most importantly the strong endorsement from the residents of Didipio and the nine other communities in the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino,” he said.
According to the Environmental Justice Atlas website, which purports to document and catalogue social conflict around environmental issues, Didipio is located on indigenous Bugkalots ancestral land and has "has caused large human rights violations and environmental destruction".
OceanaGold said it employs more than 1,800 people at the site and contributed about US$70 million to the Philippines economy in royalties and taxes in the past 3 1/2 years.
The company operates the Macraes and Reefton mines in the South Island. Last year it acquired the Waihi mine from Newmont Mining Corp and it is also developing the Haile mine in the US, where commercial production is slated to start in early 2017.
OceanaGold shares last traded at $4.76 on the NZX and have gained 69 percent this year.