By Melvin Gascon
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya — A regional trial court in this province on Thursday (July 25) denied the request of an Australian mining firm to continue its operations despite the lapse of its mining license and opposition from local host communities.
In a 10-page resolution, Judge Paul Attolba, Jr. said OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. failed to prove it was entitled to a “clear and unmistakeable right” to be protected after it was ordered to stop operations by the provincial government.
“There is no sufficient evidence on record to support that (OceanaGold) is indeed authorized to continue minimg operations pending the renewal by the President of the FTAA which would establish a clear and unmistakable right warranting the issuance of an injunctive relief,” he said.
The FTAA refers to the financial and technical assistance agreement, which is a mining license allowed by the Mining Act of 1995 for a foreign-owned firm to exploit the country’s mineral resources.
The court case stemmed from a petition filed by OceanaGold after Gov. Carlos Padilla ordered local governments to block the passage of the firm’s shipments of gold and copper ore from its site in Didipio village in Kasibu town after its FTAA expired on June 20.
OceanaGold filed the petition asking the court to restrain residents from blockading the access roads leading to and from the mine site, and prevent the mayor and village governments from cancelling local permits granted to it.
The provincial, town and village governments have earlier issued resolutions rejecting OceanaGold’s renewal of its FTAA, citing the environmental and social damage, as well as the cases of human rights violations it has supposedly caused on the host communities over the years that it was in operation.
Last month, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Luisa Cuaresma also asked Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu to reject OceanaGold’s FTAA application.
The Australian mining firm has since defied the local governments’ stoppage orders, maintaining that they were allowed by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to continue operations pending the approval of their request for renewal.
Provincial officials, as well as anti-mining advocates, however, have condemned the “surreptitious” manner by which OceanaGold, in alleged connivance with corrupt MGB officials, processed the renewal of the Didipio FTAA.
The mining controversy has continued to cause tension among residents of the ore-rich village, as anti-mining locals continue to barricade the access roads leading to the site.
In its July 25 resolution, the court cited the terms of OceanaGold’s FTAA that it should terminate after 25 years from the date of its effectivity.
“Since the FTAA took effect on June 20, 1994, the agreement terminated on June 20, 2019. As such, the right from which (OceanaGold) derives its authority to conduct mining operations ceased to exist,” the court said.
The court dismissed OceanaGold’s insistence that it had the permission of the MGB to continue its operations.
“From the wording of the (MGB) letter, it appears that the MGB acting director was merely informing the company of the position of their bureau, which he communicated to the (Environment) Secretary (Roy Cimatu); that his statement is merely recommendatory in nature awaiting the action of the DENR Secretary or the President,” Attolba said. # MCG