On World Indigenous People’s Day, the global Network Yes to Life No to Mining joins the global protest against Oceana Gold with its member organisation Kalikasan from the Philippines.
Indigenous peoples alongside national and international organizations held simultaneous rallies in Australia, El Salvador, Canada, and the Philippines calling for the non-renewal of the large-scale gold and copper mining concession of Australian-Canadian owned Oceanagold in Nueva Vizcaya.The global protest was held in commemoration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
The campaign against OceanaGold denounced the 25 years of environmental destruction and exploitation threatening ethnocide against indigenous communities in the Philippines. Tuwali Ifugao and Bugkalot indigenous peoples reside in the mining-affected communities in Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya and have faced decades of division and displacement.
“The years of exploitation and the environmental destruction that Oceanagold’s mining caused has earned the ire of the community, environmental advocates, and even the local government officials. The ongoing barricade is a testament to the people’s objection to this Canadian company’s attempt to extend their plunder of Didipio’s mineral reserves,” said Douglas Booker, General Secretary of the International Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines Canada (ICHRP Canada).
Canadian support groups have assembled two actions in Canada, one in Ottawa outside the Prime Minister’s office, and one in Vancouver in front of the OceanaGold office where they will submit a petition letter asking OceanaGold to pull out their operations in the Philippines.
On June 20, 2019, the Nueva Vizcaya Provincial Government declared the operation of OceanaGold illegal. On July 1, indigenous people put up a people’s barricade hindering the operation of the company. On July 25, the Regional Trial Court in Nueva Vizcaya junked the petition of Oceanagold to allow their operations and declare unlawful the provincial government’s stoppage order.
Because of these legal debacles and local protests, OceanaGold declared full suspension of its mining operation in the province. As of August 8, OceanaGold’s stock market value has dropped by 23% since the start of the year.
Human rights violations
“In our recently concluded national solidarity and fact-finding mission, we found numerous rights violations were experienced by the residents at the barricade such as red-tagging, surveillance, intrusions in their homes, as well as threats of dispersal and harm against the barricade. Oceanagold must be held accountable for its mounting human rights atrocities,” said Leon Dulce of National Coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
This is not the first time Oceanagold has figured in human rights violations. Kalikasan PNE noted that from 2007 to 2018 various rights violations were recorded such as lack of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC), forced demolitions, pollution of rivers, unjust conditions of workers, illegal arrests, and red-tagging.
The group also furthered that the entire Filipino people’s sovereign rights to their natural resources have been undermined by Oceanagold. Company data revealed that some 87 billion pesos worth of copper, gold, and silver were mined by Oceanagold from 2013 to 2018, while only 4.7 billion pesos or only 5.4% were provided in salaries, taxes, and development projects ito the provincial and national government of the Philippines.
A protest action and submission of petitions against Oceanagold to the Philippine consulate was also organized in Cabanas Department in El Salvador, where its communities also faced threats to their sovereign water and mineral resources from Oceanagold.
“For a long time organizations from the Philippines has supported the people of El Salvador in a gigantic battle that led to a defeat against OceanaGold mining corporation at the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) tribunal in 2016, and to the eventual prohibition of large-scale mining in El Salvador in 2017. We are giving back our solidarity to the people of Nueva Vizcaya to their success of mounting a people’s barricade against OceanaGold. We are asking the Philippine government to listen to their people and deny OceanaGold a new lease to deplete mineral resources and pollute the waters of the Philippines,” said Pedro Cabezas of International Allies against Mining in El Salvador who organized a protest action in front of the Philippine Consulate in El Salvador.
“We reiterate our calls on the United Nation Human Rights Council (UN HRC) to investigate Oceanagold for its plethora of violations of environmental, civil-political, socio-economic, and other human rights. We demand President Duterte to fully reject Oceanagold’s FTAA renewal application to end the continuing mining injustices they face,” ended Dulce.
The Global Day of Action against Oceanagold Mining Corporation was organized by Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan) Katribu, Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self Determination, International People’s Conference on Mining (IPCM), Yes to Life, No to Mining (YLNM) Southeast Asia, Defend Patrimony Alliance, and International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS) Commission 19; Spirit of Eureka, Australian Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines (APDP), Migrante Australia, Philippines Australia Solidarity Action (PASA); International Allies against Mining, Central American Alliance against Mining in El Salvador; and Mining Watch Canada, Anakbayan Ottawa, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) Canada, the Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Mining Justice Network, Canada.