The controversial gold and copper mine in the province of Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines © Erwin Mascarinas, NTFP-EP Philippines / IUCN NL

Indigenous community leaders protesting OceanaGold mine met with violence

IUCN NL and several other conservation and human rights organizations express their strong condemnation of the violent dispersal by the Philippine National Police against 29 indigenous community leaders protesting the OceanaGold mining project on April 6, 2020.

Header photo: Erwin Mascarinas, NTFP-EP Philippines / IUCN NL

‘We received worrisome reports by our local partners in the Philippines about the violent dispersal by the Philippine National Police against a group of indigenous community leaders barricading against the impacts of the OceanaGold mine in Didipio,’ says Antoinette Sprenger, Senior Expert Environmental Justice at IUCN NL. ‘The chairman of the local people’s organization DESAMA, Rolando Pulido, was arrested and currently remains in jail.’

The gold mine of the Australian OceanaGold (OGPI) in Didipio is causing water pollution, compromising the water provisioning and livelihoods of the communities in Nueva Vizcaya. Although the permit of the mine has expired in July 2019, the company has continued its activities.

Violent dispersal of community protest

‘When the mining contract of OGPI expired, local groups set-up a barricade,’ says Sprenger. On April 6, more than 100 policemen forcibly entered the premises of the mine with a diesel tanker. ‘Our partners Alyansa Tigil Mina and Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment report that the violence erupted when local residents resisted the entry of a diesel tanker,’ Sprenger says. ‘They violently dispersed the peaceful protest by 29 indigenous community leaders and arrested their chairman Rolando Pulido.’

IUCN NL strongly condemns violence against environmental defenders. ‘Together with local partner organizations, we work to improve the safety of environmental defenders,’ Sprenger says. ‘We have set up an emergency fund to safeguard defenders that are in acute danger and we advocate for a UN Binding Treaty to ensure that businesses respect human rights.’

Mining deadliest sector

Mining turns out to be the deadliest sector for environmental defenders worldwide (Global Witness, 2019). From the total of 164 recorded murders in 2018, no less than 43 is linked to this industry, which often has destructive effects for the environment and livelihoods of inhabitants.

In addition, Global Witness reported that the Philippines is the world’s deadliest country for environmental- and human rights defenders. Since 2016, over 100 people were killed for protecting their environment against illegal logging, mining and industrial agriculture.

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Antoinette Sprenger
Senior Expert Environmental Justice