The Oceana Gold and Copper mine, located in Barangay Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, was the first mining project awarded a Financial Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) by the Philippine government, allowing the company to operate large-scale mining explorations, 100% owned by foreign investor OceanaGold Corporation . The mine is located in an area in which the majority of people are indigenous. . It has become a much contested site due to large complaints over human rights violations as well as environmental destruction [2;3;4]. The company has been alleged to have obtained a Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of affected communities by creating a ‘council of elders’ comprised by people that either did not belong to the affected communities, or received rewards in exchange for their consent . Awarded with the FTAA in the 1990s, the company started project implementation since 2000. Formal petitions against the FTAA were lodged in 2006 but dismissed . On October 2, 2009, it was reported that the company forcefully evicted local villagers without prior consent, bulldozed and burned 187 houses, assisted by private security forces, using teargas and violence against villagers and neighbors who resisted leaving . In relation to the tension surrounding the mine, Kalikasan reported that in December 2012, two opponents of large-scale mining; both members of the Didipio Earthsavers’ Multipurpose Association (DESAMA), were killed by unidentified assailants in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya . Cheryl Ananayo, was shot dead along with her cousin-in-law Randy Nabayay as they were riding to Didipio at 6:00PM on December 7, 2012. DESAMA is a people’s organization opposed to the ongoing implementation of the 17,626-hectare Didipio gold-copper project owned by Australian large-scale miner OceanaGold Corporation. Nabayay was a small-scale miner who had differences with OceanaGold over his property. Ananayo was with her 4 year-old child and carrying her 3 month-old baby, both unharmed..
The Commission for Human Rights (CHR) of the Philippines urged the government to withdraw the FTAA due to large evidences of rights abuses [2;3]. However, the government apparently sided with the company, which claimed to do “ethical, responsible, and sustainable mining” . Construction was completed in 2012 and commercial production started on April 1, 2013 . Since production started, increasing contamination of rivers by heavy metals has been recorded, significantly exceeding the standard safety limits, thus, strongly affecting the environment and the livelihood of local communities . People living next to the river, as well as downstream, are concerned about declining fish stock and irrigation of nearby agricultural fields . Increasing noise and air pollution adds to the situation, while the company was further accused of avoiding tax payments . Nowadays, petitions and protests against the Didipio mine, targeting the company and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issuing the permits, go on. On the national level, the OceanaGold mine is one of many mines, causing severe tensions between corporate interests in search of new commodity frontiers and indigenous communities, aiming to preserve their identities, opposing these trends which they call “development aggression” .
***** This text has been updated on October 1, 2016.
A previous version misstated that the mine was located on ancestral Bugkalots lands. Indeed, the area has been inhabited by many indigenous people to whom the land has been a crucial part of their livelihoods and identity. However, they came originally from other places for which reason they cannot formally claim ancestral domain over Dipdio. Information retrieved from: