On April 9, President Duterte issued a warning to mining companies in a speech in Davao City: “I do not want to see bald mountains in the areas you have mined. I want to see trees as tall as me in 6 months. If I don’t see any in the area you destroyed, consider your permit revoked.”
These are bold and important words. The Philippines hosts dozens of major mining companies, many of them operating environmentally-destructive open-pit mines. Planting trees is a standard requirement in mining agreements. But, as suggested by President Duterte’s warning, it is not one always taken seriously by mining companies.
A case in point is one of the Philippines’ largest open-pit mines: that of Australian-Canadian mining giant OceanaGold in the municipality of Didipio in Nueva Vizcaya. OceanaGold has been operating the Didipio mine since 2013. As we saw for ourselves in research trips there in 2013 and 2017, it has not met its reforestation requirements.
True, OceanaGold brags that they won awards for their reforestation efforts. The firm began its reforestation program years before the mine opened, and was the recipient of a 2009 National Environmental Award for its forestry program from the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Our most recent visit was in July 2017, when we traveled to 3 of the company’s reforestation areas near the Didipio mine to see if the reality lived up to the awards or even to its reforestation requirements.