Court asked to review OceanaGold renewal of mineral development deal

ADVOCACY group Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) said Tuesday that it requested a court review of OceanaGold Philippines, Inc.’s renewed mineral development deal for its mine in Nueva Vizcaya.

“A Petition for Certiorari seeking the reversal of the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) issued to the mining firm was filed yesterday at the Bayombong Regional Trial Court,” the group said in a statement.

An FTAA is the deal entered into with the government allowing companies to engage in large-scale mineral exploration, development, and utilization.

OceanaGold Philippines operates the Didipio gold and copper mine in Nueva Vizcaya.

LRC alleged that the FTAA was issued in the absence of consultation with communities and with disregard for local autonomy.

“The Local Government Code requires the national government to conduct consultations with stakeholders before the implementation of an environmentally critical project,” Ryan Roset, senior legal fellow for LRC, said.

Projects with high potential for a negative environmental impact are classified as environmentally critical projects.

“Since no prior approvals have been secured by OceanaGold over its renewed FTAA, the project cannot be implemented and should be deemed illegal,” Mr. Roset added.

In a resolution, the local government of Didipio said that it had declined the request of the Didipio Earth Savers Multi-Purpose Association — one of the parties to the case — to support the bid to cancel the mining company’s FTAA.

Asked to comment, OceanaGold said that it has yet to receive a copy of the complaint filed by LRC.

“We can assure you that OGPI, as a mining partner of the government, goes beyond compliance in adhering to the Philippines’ strict mining regulations, including what is required from us based on our FTAA,” the company said in an statement.

OceanaGold added that it had undergone an environmental impact assessment, which is required prior to the grant of an Environment Compliance Certificate for the Didipio Mine.

“We respect all opinions of our stakeholders, and we continue to be open for dialogue and productive engagements,” it said.

In 2021, OceanaGold was granted a 25-year renewal of its FTAA, two years after its initial FTAA had expired.

Under the renewed agreement, the company is required to list 10% of its common shares on the bourse. It is set to conduct its initial public offering on May 13 by listing 2.8 billion shares for P7.9 billion.

“While this amount goes to the national treasury, I want to reassure everyone that the DENR will continue to advocate for its utilization towards the environmental, social, and developmental needs of all communities and all lo-cal governments that are in fact stakeholders in natural resources development,” Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said. — Adrian H. Halili