Didipioa clean mine, Oceana says

Rodrigo Duterte
Rodrigo Duterte
Oceana Gold's Philippine mining interests might be operating under a "cloud of uncertainty'', but New Zealand's largest gold producer is confident it has exceeded all of its environmental obligations.

The mining sector in the Philippines is coming under increasing pressure from President Rodrigo Duterte's government, which in an initial review ordered 23 of 41 mining operations be closed, and five suspensions, the latter including Oceana Gold's Didipio gold-copper mine on the northern island of Luzon.

Oceana had immediately appealed the suspension, meaning Didipio can continue to operate, while a second review was announced by the Government about 10 days ago, the same time a ban on exporting unprocessed minerals was also mooted.

While Oceana's Macraes mine in East Otago provides it with largest quarterly production of gold, it is the significant cash flows from Didipio underpinning expansion, at Waihi in the North Island and the Haile development mine in South Carolina; the latter just starting to produce gold.

Didipio's cost to produce gold is one of the lowest in the world, being offset by the sale of by-product copper.

Oceana Gold's marketing and communications manager Jill Thomas was contacted in Melbourne and asked how challenging the evolving geopolitical situation was in the Philippines.

``There's obviously a cloud of uncertainty around mining in the Philippines,'' she said.

``However, President Duterte has repeated his desire for a responsible mining sector that operates to Australian and Canadian standards.''

She said Oceana's Didipio operation ``continues unabated, without change'' and she believed Didipio was the template for what President Duterte is looking for, particularly with Oceana having been recognised as the most environmentally and socially responsible mining operation in the country, she said.

On the question of the second review, Ms Thomas said the Mining Industry Co-ordination Council (MICC), which is co-chaired by the Secretaries of Finance and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), had assembled a technical team which would evaluate the earlier decisions made by the DENR.

She said the Philippine Government had said the team would have ``no known conflict of interest with the mining industry or with anti-mining non-government organisations''.

``We support this decision in determining whether due process has been followed and are confident the MICC will confirm that Didipio has met or exceeded all of its obligations environmentally, contractually and legally,'' Ms Thomas said.

On Monday, President Duterte said it may be ``worthwhile'' for Environment Secretary Regina Lopez to reinforce a ban on mining given the environmental damage that producers have caused, Reuters reported.

It was not immediately clear whether Mr Duterte was calling for a total ban on mining or a strengthening of Ms Lopez's order closing more than half of the mines in the Philippines.

Mr Duterte also said at the media briefing that he wanted to meet local miners so they could explain to him what led to the destruction of the environment in areas where they operated.

When asked about the appeal process, Ms Thomas said once Oceana had submitted supporting documentation to the Office of the President, the DENR then had 15 days to respond.

``Following that, there is no set timeline as to when the Office of the President renders a decision,'' she said.

On the proposal to consider banning the export of unprocessed minerals from the Philippines, Ms Thomas said there had been discussion on the subject ``over the past few years''.

``However, it was previously acknowledged by the previous administration as something difficult to push through, let alone in a reasonable timeframe,'' Ms Thomas said.



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