Since 1 July 2019, local government units from the Province of Nueva Vizcaya have impeded access to and from OceanaGold’s Didipio mine site in response to a directive from the Governor to “restrain any operations” of the Company.

OceanaGold’s Didipio mine. Image source ©OceanaGold

The Provincial Court of Nueva Vizcaya has denied OceanaGold an injunction request to end, what the Company believes to be, an “unauthorised restraint of the Didipio operation” by the Provincial Government of Nueva Vizcaya.

The Company maintains the regulatory authority of the Didipio operation rests with the National Government, not the local government units, taking the matter to the Philippine Court of Appeals in Manila.

Due to the depletion of consumable mining supplies, Didipio’s underground mining has been suspended since July, with processing continuing along with other critical activities to ensure the safety of employees and protection of the environment.

As reported on 27 June 2019, the Company lodged its application for renewal of the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) with the Philippine Government in March 2018. On 20 June 2019, the Philippine Government’s regulatory authority, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, confirmed that the Didipio Mine is permitted to continue operations pending confirmation of the FTAA renewal.

Mick Wilkes, President and CEO of OceanaGold, argues that authority over the Didipio Mine rests with the National Government.

“The Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7160) does not grant the power or authority to the Provincial Governor or any local government officer to restrain any aspect of the Didipio operation,” said Mr Wilkes.

“We continue to work with the National Government to finalise the renewal of the FTAA and remain open to the opportunity to engage with the Provincial government and work together in the best interest of the local stakeholders.

“The Company is committed to operating in accordance with the law and will always comply with its responsibilities under its contract with the Philippine Government.”

The Philippines Court of Appeals in Manila has set Wednesday 18 September 2019 as the hearing date for the Company’s application for a Writ of Preliminary Injunction.

According to a Company statement, further updates will be provided to the market on the outcome of the Injunction application, and any impact to group production and cost guidance, when the information becomes available.

“The Company remains strongly committed to operating in accordance with the law and will always comply with its responsibilities under its contract with the Philippine Government,” said Mr Wilkes.

“OceanGold has successfully developed and operated the Didipio Mine in the Philippines with a focus on delivering socio-economic benefits to local communities utilising international best practices and gaining a strong social license to operate.

“While this process is taking some time, we will always operate in line with our values and commitment to responsible mining, and this means working transparently with the Philippine regulatory authorities to maximise the speed of the renewal. We are encouraged by the engagement with the government to date as we continue to work towards a mutually-acceptable path forward on the FTAA renewal.”

The Didipio Mine is an underground gold and copper mine located across the provinces of Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya, approximately 270 kilometres northeast of Manila in the Philippines

The Didipio mine has delivered significant socio-economic benefits to the Barangay of Didipio, neighbouring communities, the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino and the Philippines. It directly employs 1,500 workers of which approximately 97 per cent are Philippine nationals including over 59 per cent from the local communities and several thousand additional livelihood opportunities/indirect jobs through partnerships with cooperatives and social development organisations.

*Article published in the October-December 2019 issue of The Asia Miner

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