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Despite CHR protest, NZ-based miner to bankroll Didipio copper project

A New Zealand-based miner on Monday bared plans to spend $140 million to restart and speed up the construction of a Nueva Vizcaya copper-gold project, even as the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has told the government to revoke their license. Jose Leviste, chairman and president of the Philippine subsidiary of OceanaGold Corp., said the company will source the funds from earnings in New Zealand, where OceanaGold’s mines "are doing fairly well." Controversies have hounded OceanaGold’s mining operations in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, which the company halted in 2008 due to financial constraints in the face of the global financial crisis. The company has been accused of trampling upon the rights of the indigenous community in the area. In January, the CHR recommended the withdrawal of the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) that the government has granted OceanaGold “in view of the gross violations of human rights it has committed." According to a primer of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, an FTAA is an agreement between a contractor and the government for the large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of gold, copper, nickel, and other minerals. ‘Illegal and violent’ demolition The CHR cited complaints that OceanaGold "had illegally and violently demolished some 187 houses in Didipio." "Residents who resisted and tried to save their homes had been beaten, including their neighbors who helped them; houses had been bulldozed off cliffs and set on fire," the CHR resolution added. Aside from the FTAA withdrawal, the CHR also requested concerned agencies to continue monitoring the human rights situation in Didipio and "to take every step possible to avoid the occurrence of further violence in oppression." In an interview with GMA News Online, CHR staff Christopher Louie Ocampo said the commission has received reports that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is studying the CHR resolution and will come up with recommendations based on the commission’s findings. He said the Office of the President will make a decision based on these recommendations. GMA News Online called OceanaGold by telephone, but the woman who answered said that the person in charge "ay naka-uwi na (already went home)." In a statement issued in January, OceanaGold reacted to the CHR resolution by saying the company has upheld “ethical, responsible, and sustainable mining." "The company insists it has met, and is committed to continuing to meet, the human rights of the local community," the company added in the statement. Production forecasts OceanaGold sees the Didipio operations going on stream by 2013, with an output of 71,000 ounces of gold and 32 million pounds of copper from the first to the sixth year of the project. By the seventh year onwards, OceanaGold expects production to slow down to 67,000 ounces of gold and 12 million pounds of copper. Partially constructed, the Didipio project has so far cost OceanaGold $80 million. — With Paterno Esmaquel II/VS, GMA News