December 9, 2008

Gold Mining battle of Vizcaya gets backing

Oceanagold Corp. Dipidio Mine

International and local environmentalists and local residents on Tuesday urged the provincial government of Nueva Vizcaya to take a stronger stance and pass a resolution declaring a moratorium on large-scale mining in the province.

Delegates of the International Solidarity Mission, which conducted a fact-finding mission in Kasibu town where New Zealand firm OceanaGold Corp. has mining interests, said it was already proven that mining does not bring economic benefits to the community and instead brings hardship and disunity among the tribes.

The group also recommended to assess the damage the mining activities have incurred to the communities and to the local environment as the basis for eventual rehabilitation of the area and compensation to the affected communities where OceanaGold is accountable for.

OceanaGold recently announced that it was suspending its mining operations in Dipidio, Kasibu due to financial difficulties.

The Mission has also recommended to the affected communities to develop a more concrete plan to adopt a policy geared toward genuine development through a strong sustainable agricultural base, adding that there should be a change in policy of the national government with the scrapping of Mining Act of 1995 and its mining revitalization program that would include complete stoppage of Didipio Gold-Copper Mining Project of OceanaGold.

On December 7-8, the ISM team visited the targeted expansion areas of Didipio mining project, which are barangay Alimit and Malabing, of the Municipality of Kasibu. The team found out that the destruction of major agricultural and forest lands through the mine expansion would have grave economic and environmental consequences, not only to the said communities but to the whole province as well.

"The IP communities in Brgy. Alimit and Malabing are at risk of experiencing the same fate as those communities where multi-national mining corporations were allowed to enter. They are in danger of losing the resources most precious to us IPs, which is our land and right to self- determination," said Himpad Mangumalas, leader of national IP organization, Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamayan sa Pilipinas.

Himpad added that, "It is very disheartening to find how the resources and the very rights we have been fighting for since time immemorial are easily given to foreign companies. One instance is how OceanaGold was permitted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to cut 17,000 trees and to destroy critical watershed areas. IPs, on the other hand, are deprived of our claim to the land and resources that have so long been with us."

The ISM was joined also by local participants who shared their own struggle in their own communities, particularly those who have experienced mining firsthand in neighboring towns Didipio and Runruno, and in the province of Apayao.

The dialogue coincided with the opening of the Lower Magat Eco-Tourism Park(LMETP), by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and is to be attended by top government officials.

"It is ironic how President Arroyo claims to be a champion of the environment and the people, as illustrated by her eco-tourism park and yet her national and economic policies show otherwise. Even though the local communities are opposed to mining and have exhausted means to stop the mining in the area, Arroyo with her agencies still push for the liberalization of mining in the country," said Clemente Bautista Jr., national coordinator of progressive environmental groups Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment. - GMANews.TV

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