By Clemente Bautista. 22/07/2016
In 2008, Australian junior mining company Lafayette went bankrupt after failing to commence commercial mining in the Philippines. And in 2015, the fourth biggest mining company in the world, Glencore Xstrata, was forced to make its own exit from the Philippines, despite the years it spent attempting to mine on the island of Mindanao.
In both cases, it was the powerful resistance of local peoples, environmental groups and their international allies that stopped these large corporate mines from going ahead in the Philippines. These are cases where David wins against Goliath.
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, a member of the Yes to Life, No to Mining Network, is at the forefront of environmental movement in the Philippines. Among our major campaigns is the campaign against large-scale and foreign mining and alongside grassroots communities, member organizations and international allies, we are winning many battles against corporate mining.
We have achieved these victories by rallying international solidarity support for campaigns to get exposure globally and bringing the fight in the countries where the mining corporations are based.
Now we are pursuing another campaign against corporate mining plunder – an International Campaign against OceanaGold.
This company is a multinational gold producer worth $1.1 billion. It has multimillion dollar mining operations in Australia, El Salvador, New Zealand, Philippines and the United States and has become embroiled in several conflicts around these mines.
People’s human rights have been violated while resisting OceanaGold’s mine in the Philippines, and the company is suing the Government of El Salvador after it banned gold mining to protect what’s left of the country’s clean water supplies. Our campaign aims to build solidarity between these struggles and hold OceanaGold to account.
Plunder and Violations in the Philippines
In 2006, Oceanagold merged with ClimaxArimco Mining Corporation (CAMC), a move that enabled OceanaGold to acquire the permissions to mine in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya through a 1994 agreement between The Philippine government and CAMC. But because of the strong resistance of the local communities and anti-mining campaign at the national level, OceanaGold was forced to delay the project for almost two decades.
(A protestor outside OceanaGold’s Didipio Mine. Photo: SAPPAKKMI)
Several anti-mining activist and indigenous people leaders have been killed in the course of the struggle in Nueva Vizcaya. Hundreds of individuals have been displaced in their communities. In 2011 the Commission for Human Rights in the Philippines found that, in its attempts to mine, OceanaGold had violated numerous human rights in the area, including local peoples’ Right to Residence, Adequate Housing and Property Rights; to Freedom of Movement; to Security of Person and to Manifest Culture and Identity, amongst others.
Despite this, OceanaGold started its commercial operation at its Didipio Gold mine in 2013. Since that time, the company has turned what was once Didipio’s Dinkiday Mountain into a 370-metre deep open pit gold mine that operates 24 hours a day, blasting away rock to get at the gold beneath. Recent scientific investigations by scientist group AGHAM have discovered the fast environmental degradation and pollution occurring in the area.
(Aerial view of OceanaGold’s Didipio Mine.)
Disrespecting El Salvador’s sovereignty and self-determination
In November 2013, OceanaGold acquired the El Dorado mining project from Canadian owned Pacific Rim Mining Corp. The El Dorado mining project covers 14,407 hectares that have a high content of gold and silver deposits.
(OceanaGold’s El Dorado Project, El Salvador. Photo: luterano.bogspot.com)
When it acquired the El Dorado project, Oceana Gold also inherited Pacific Rim’s lawsuit against the El Salvadorian government’s 2008 decision to impose a nationwide mining moratorium nationwide because of the severe water crisis caused by mining in the country.
In response, OceanGold are suing the El Salvadorian government for US$301 million in
the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) at the World Bank- a secretive trade court. The El Salvadorian government has already had to spend $12 million in legal costs fighting the case; money that could have been put to far better use elsewhere in one of the world’s economically poorest nations.
OceanaGold’s lawsuit has caused international outcry and increased grassroots resistance to OceanaGold’s projects in El Salvador. It has also led to solidarity building efforts between different areas affected by the company’s operations.
International unity and support
National campaigns and local resistance against OceanaGold’s operations in the Philippines and El Salvador continue to gain momentum.
Most recently, in June 2016, mining opponents in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, were able to temporarily stop the expansion of OceanaGold’s mining operations through a community barricade.
(Didipio community members block OceanaGold’s access to a new drilling site. Photo: SAPPAKKMI)
In El Salvador a strong solidarity network, the Stop ES Network, continues to campaign against OceanaGold’s investment dispute case at the World Bank. Several actions have been made to pressure OceanaGold and World Bank to drop the case.
In any mining struggle it is vital for these local efforts to be supported by international solidarity. In this case campaigns and groups in Australia, Canada and US are providing much needed international exposure and support, increasing our chance of securing a victory.
At the International People’s Conference on Mining (IPCM) – an international gathering of mining activists held in August 2015- it was decided that groups would conduct a coordinated solidarity campaign against OceanaGold to bring the company to account.
A campaign core group composed of organizations Kalikasan PNE, Amianan Salakniban, and ANNVIK of the Philippines, Pacific Resource Asia Center of Japan, Kairos Canada, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines (APDP), ANCoMP (Australian National Campaign on Mining in the Philippines), Migrante of Australia, and Radio Victoria, and Asociation de Desarrollo Economica Social Santa Marta of El Salvador was formed at the meeting.
The campaign against OceanaGold was officially launched on July 16, 2016, by Kalikasan, BAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance) USA, IPCM and International Allies against Mining in El Salvador (Stop ES Mining) at a forum in New York, but already actions are under way.
On June 9, 2016, in the recent OceanaGold General Assembly in Toronto Canada, Canadian solidarity groups held a protest action to denounce the environmental and human rights violations of the company in the Philippines and El Salvador.
On June 21, 2016, Mines and Communities conducted a protest action in front of the venue of mining confab in London where an OceanaGold official was one of the main speakers.
In Australia, workers unions, migrant groups, and environmental groups continue to have regular protest action on the last Friday of every month to expose the record of and pressure OceanaGold.
As long as we keep united and resisting we have a chance, a big chance, of frustrating these mining plunderers.
Clemente ‘Enteng’ Bautista is National Coordinator of Kalikasan PNE and Yes to Life, No to Mining Regional Coordinator for South East Asia.
This blog was produced to celebrate the Global Day Against Mega Mining on 22nd July 2016.