OceanaGold undergoes major leadership transition; FTAA hangs
The local unit of Australian-Canadian miner OceanaGold underwent a major leadership transition while its gold mining operation in Nueva Vizcaya still hangs by a thread sans President Rodrigo Duterte’s final approval on its extended Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA).
On Thursday, OceanaGold Corporate Communications Manager Melissa Bowerman confirmed that long-time OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) Chairman Joey Leviste already retired from his post and that Mick Wilkes, the group’s president and chief executive officer, will be the one that’s overseeing the company’s Philippine operations from now on.
Leviste’s retirement came amid the suspension of the company’s sole operation in the Philippines – the Didipio underground gold and copper mine project.
Right now, the company is still waiting for the Office of the President’s (OP) approval for the renewal of its FTAA.
FTAA is a contract that allows a foreign-owned mining firm to operate in the Philippines as well as explore and utilize the country’s mineral resources. The deal also gives the government a pre-determined share in the mining project.
OceanaGold’s 25-year FTAA with the Philippine government expired in 2019, a year after it lodged its application for renewal for the deal.
While it initially secured endorsement from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), its application was questioned by OP for lacking the free, prior informed consent (FPIC) from the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP).
This was eventually addressed by the company and its application for FTAA renewal is now back with OP.
The problem is that OceanaGold remains uncertain as to when it will get OP’s approval, according to OGPI Community Superintendent Marjorie Idio.
“OP has its own timeline and we just have to work with the national government and their timelines,” Idio said.
Aside from the delay in its FTAA renewal, the company is also facing opposition from the local government unit of Nueva Vizcaya. In June, Nueva Vizcaya Governor Carlos Padilla released an order to stop the company’s operation as soon as its FTAA expired. At that time, a barricade has been established surrounding the Didipio mine site.
“The barricade is still there,” Idio said.
Aside from the Philippines, OceanaGold has assets in New Zealand (Waihi Gold Mine, Macraes Goldfield and Frasers) and the United States (Haile Gold Mine).
When asked if OceanaGold already began imagining a scenario without Didipio, Bowerman only said that “everything is possible” but “we will do everything we can to work with the national government to secure the FTAA renewal.”