OceanaGold under renewed scrutiny for human rights abuses at its Didipio operation

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 11 Jul 2008

The announcement by the Human Rights Commission of the Philippines that they will investigate human rights abuses by Australian mining company OceanaGold has been welcomed by international aid agency Oxfam.
Oxfam’s Mining Ombudsman Shanta Martin said the move came six years into an Oxfam campaign to convince OceanaGold to apply the same human rights standards in their Didipio operation as they would have to if operating in Australia.
“Oxfam Australia has documented a range of complaints by community members of human rights abuses as OceanaGold proceeds with development of the Didipio gold and copper mine in the northern Philippines,” Ms Martin said.
“The complaints include the demolition of homes – sometimes without a court order to do so or without sufficient compensation – and an escalation in violence which has resulted in two shootings, one of a local man in March this year by armed security guards engaged to provide security for housing demolition.”
The Chairwoman of the Philippines Human Rights Commission, Leila de Lima, was quoted today in news stories saying the company had been accused of forcibly demolishing more than 180 houses owned by the local community. She said alleged abuses included "killings, forced negotiations and harassments."
Ms Martin said the announcement from the Manila-based commission came less than a month after the Australian parliament unanimously agreed to look at developing measures that would prevent human rights abuse by Australian companies.
The motion put to the parliament last month called for:
• the development of measures to prevent the involvement or complicity of Australian companies in activities that may result in the abuse of human rights; and
• development at the international level of standards and mechanisms aimed at ensuring that transnational corporations and other business enterprises respect human rights.
“OceanaGold, and all Australian mining companies operating overseas are now being put on notice that the Australian Government is turning their attention to this issue,” Ms Martin said.
The Human Rights Commission review also coincides with confirmation that the Australia Federal Police is investigating bribery allegations against OceanaGold. It is alleged that company representatives offered financial inducements to members of the democratically elected local Council in the form of money and employment to secure their support for the mine. Bribery of foreign officials is an offence under Australian law.
OceanaGold is currently seeking additional finance in response to recently announced cost blowouts and have postponed some construction contracts on the project.
“Potential investors in OceanaGold should be very wary and be aware that they too have a responsibility to ensure that their investments are respectful of human rights,” Ms Martin said.
To arrange an interview with Shanta Martin or for more information call Louise Perry on +61 414 456 015