NGO claims Oceanagold mine halts operations

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AUSTRALIAN MINER Oceanagold Corp. has suspended work at its Didipio mine, an environmental organization claimed, saying that the province of Nueva Vizcaya ordered a halt to operations.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), which regulates the mining industry, said the company, whose Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) expired on June 20, can still validly operate since its renewal application was submitted on time and is being processed.

The company had not responded to requests for comment at deadline time. Attempts to contact the Nueva Vizcaya government were hindered by a non-functioning telephone line.

Oceanagold, which is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, had made no disclosure to the ASX at deadline time.

In a statement, environment group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) claimed that Nueva Vizacaya Governor Carlos M. Padilla sought the suspension of the company’s operations in Barangay Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya.

Kalikasan PNE claimed mining operations were halted at 6:48 AM on Wednesday. It did not explain how it got the information.

Didipio is a high-grade underground gold and copper mine, which started commercial production as an open pit operation in 2013. It transitioned to underground operation in 2016, with production commencing early 2017.

The group claims that the mine degrades the forests and rivers around Kasibu.

Oceanagold has said previously that it has been working with the government to renew its FTAA, and was permitted to continue operations during the process.

MGB Director Wilfredo G. Moncano said the company can operate since it was able to file for renewal before expiration of its FTAA, which is now with the Office of the President (OP).

“Our position is Oceana is not suspended because it was able to file a renewal application prior to the expiry. Section 18, Chapter 3, Book 7 of the Administrative Code of 1987 provides that the license of Oceana does not expire until there is a determination of the agency concerned which is the OP,” he said in a text message to BusinessWorld.

He said that he has not been informed of any suspension.

“The renewal application was filed in 2018 prior to its expiry last June 20 this year. Environment Secretary (Roy A.) Cimatu has favorably endorsed the renewal application,” he added. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang