OceanaGold says Philippine mine on track for 2013 operation

MANILA, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Australian miner OceanaGold Ltd OGC.AXOGC.TO said on Thursday it was committed to pursuing commercial production of its Didipio gold-copper project in the Philippines by early 2013, as it declared compliance with all local laws.

The company also said it upheld “ethical, responsible and sustainable” mining, in reaction to a recommendation by the government’s human rights body that Manila take back Oceanagold’s mining rights for violating rights of indigenous people. [ID:nSGE70G05]

Australia’s fourth-largest listed gold miner said in a statement it was concerned the human rights agency did not formally notify the company of its recommendation before the report was made public.

“The company insists it has met, and is committed to continuing to meet, the human rights of the local community,” it said.

Company Chief Executive Officer Mick Wilkes said in the same statement: “The company is firmly committed to building strong and enduring relationships with our community in the development and ongoing operations of the Didipio project for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

Loretta Ann Rosales, head of the human rights commission, said on Monday the agency found OceanaGold had violated indigenous people’s right to adequate housing, freedom of movement and manifest their culture and identity.

The Didipio mine in Nueva Vizcaya province north of the capital has a reserve life of 20 years and holds 1.41 million ounces of gold and 169,400 tonnes of copper, based on a report released last year by OceanaGold.

In October, OceanaGold said it would restart work on the project in the first half of 2011, with initial capital cost estimated at $140 million. The firm did not give a final capital spending estimate on Thursday but said it was on target to begin production by 2013. [ID:nSGE69S0CR]

It halted construction in late 2008 on high cost estimates for Didipio’s development, initially seen reaching $320 million.

Manila wants to promote mining to lure more foreign money and boost jobs, but opposition from the Catholic church and indigenous people due mainly to the environmental impact of the projects have resulted in slow investments in the sector.

Reporting by Erik dela Cruz; Editing by Rosemarie Francisco