Groups Urge Int’l Banks: Stop Funding Destructive Mining Projects


“The OceanaGold Corporation and Lafayette mining projects are both anti-people and anti-environment. These are the main reasons why OGC will not prosper and will fail.”

BY BULATLAT
Volume VIII, Number 30, August 31 – September 6, 2008

Environmentalists, indigenous peoples, and Church people picketed the Australian New Zealand (ANZ) Bank office in Makati City demanding that the bank withdraw its funding from what they call a destructive mining project.

The ANZ, the fourth largest bank in Australia, and HSBC, one of the largest banking and financial services organizations, are the major funders of the OceanaGold Corporation (OGC) Didipio Gold-Copper mining project in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya.

Both banks also hold nominee accounts as OGC’s major stockholders.

The protesters symbolically launched their international campaign against the said project by submitting to the bank a petition supported by various organizations from the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.

The petition http://www.kalikasan.org/kalikasan-cms-new/ is demanding for ANZ and HSBC to pull out from the Didipio mining project.

Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, said, “It would not be agreeable for ANZ and HSBC to be known as supporters of projects which have caused massive environmental degradation and human rights violations. These offenses run contrary to their claims of socially and environmentally responsible banking norms.”

The group said that they have already gathered 495 signatures in a week’s time, mostly from the Philippines and Australia.

Himpad Mangumalas, spokesperson of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP, Federation of Indigneous People’s Organizations in the Philippines), said, “They should withdraw support to Oceana Gold as a gesture of adherence to international humanitarian laws. Their continued financial backing to the mining company reflects tolerance to rights abuses.”

Warning

“We believe that the Didipio mining project of OGC is becoming more financially and economically unviable every day. Until now, there are no fresh investments and loans that are coming to the project. This should serve as a warning to new investors not to risk their money in a project which is financially unstable, environmentally destructive and socially unacceptable,” Bautista added.

Last June 24, Australian-New Zealand owned OGC Philippines Inc. announced the suspension of its $117-million gold-copper project due to controversies hounding its operations and financial difficulties. Based on the annual reports of OGC, it lost US$23.43 million in 2006 and US$69.04 million in 2007.

Indigenous peoples

In addition to OGC’s financial instability, Clemente said that the project is getting much negative publicity because of the wrongs it has committed to the local and national minority residents. Even the provincial government of Nueva Vizcaya passed a resolution withdrawing their support for the project last June 25.

Peter Duyapat, Ifugao leader of Didipio Earth Savers Movement (DESAMA), said that majority of the Ifugao and indigenous peoples in Nueva Vizcaya are strongly opposed to the OGC project. “OGC violated our rights as indigenous people when they entered our communities without our consent. They have demolished our houses and are now forcefully seizing our natural resources and lands, where we get our food and subsistence,” Duyapat said.

Didipio is ancestral domain of indigenous Igorot tribes.

Mangumalas said, “This is a virtual pillage of ancestral domain.”

Lafayette

Defend Patrimony! Alliance, a national multi-sectoral alliance opposing the government’s mining policy and programs, said “OceanaGold will suffer the same fate as the Australian-owned Lafayette Mining Philippines Inc. which went bankrupt last December 2007. The support given to Lafayette by the Arroyo government and international banks were not enough to salvage it from financial losses and wide national and international opposition. The OGC and Lafayette mining projects are both anti-people and anti-environment. These are the main reasons why OGC will not prosper and will fail.”

KAMP decried the upsurge of ‘priority mining areas’ from 23 to 64 in Arroyo’s term.

Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a National Policy Agenda on ‘revitalizing the mining industry’ in January 2004. Bulatlat

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