The Struggle Continues Against Oceanagold

The decision is finally out! The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICISD), has just ruled that OceanaGold’s case against the Government of El Salvador is without merit and the Government of El Salvador will not have to pay the company the $250 million it is demanding for alleged losses caused by a national mining moratorium executed by El Salvador. The country will also be awarded $8 million to cover legal costs for the claim.

The process leading to this decision has marked another milestone for the collective action of peoples in different countries resisting large-scale mining Trans National Corporations (TNCs), like OceanaGold. This lawsuit does not only show a glimpse of what is at stake with the moribund neoliberal free-trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), or the Regional Comprehensive Economic Program (RCEP), it also reveals the relentless commitment of people across borders in building movements to defeat a mining giant in the world today.

Across the world, anti-mining networks stand in solidarity with the people of El Salvador. As a nation, they have defined and challenged the boundaries of TNC’s extractive operations by asserting their sovereignty against Canadian-Australian owned OceanaGold Corporation. The government of El Salvador did the correct and necessary step to prioritize its constituencies demand for clean water and a healthy environment. We remember the painstaking organizing that was met by threats, intimidation and even death. Marcelo Rivera, Ramiro Rivera Gómez, Felicita Echeverría, and Dora “Alicia” Recinos Sorto (who was eight months pregnant) were murdered because of their deep involvement of the campaign.

International solidarity poured in to strengthen the campaign against OceanaGold from various fronts. In August 2015, the International People’s Conference on Mining (IPCM) undertook a coordinated campaign against OceanaGold whereby a Campaign Core Group was created comprising of the following organizations: Kalikasan PNE, Amianan Salakniban, and the Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan (ANNVIK) of the Philippines, Pacific Resource Asia Center of Japan, Kairos Canada, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines (APDP), ANCoMP (Australian National Campaign on Mining in the Philippines), Migrante of Australia, and Radio Victoria and Asociation de Desarrollo Economica Social Santa Marta of El Salvador.

Several protest actions have since been conducted across the globe. In the recent OceanaGold General Assembly in Toronto Canada on June 9, 2016, Canadian solidarity groups denounced the environmental and human rights violations of OceanaGold in the Philippines and El Salvador.

On June 21, 2016, Mines and Communities protested in front of the venue of the Mining Confab in London where an OceanaGold official was one of the main speakers. In Australia, workers’ unions, migrant groups, and environmental groups continue to have regular protest actions on the last Friday of every month to expose the horrific record of OceanaGold. The last one was on Sept 30, 2016.

In El Salvador, there is a strong solidarity network linked to the Stop ES Network in the United States supporting the campaign against OceanaGold’s demand for $250 million in losses to be paid by El Salvador.  Several actions have been taken to pressure OceanaGold and the World Bank to drop the case.

Since June 17, 2016, there continues to be an ongoing community barricade in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines which has led to a temporary stop to the expansion of OceanaGold in that location.

On July 16, 2016, Kalikasan, together with the Filipino scientist group AGHAM, the USA chapter of Filipino multi-sectoral alliance BAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance), IPCM, and the International Allies against Mining in El Salvador (Stop ES Mining) launched the international campaign on OceanaGold in a forum in New York.

At this year’s World Social Forum, Kalikasan People;s Network for the Environment, MiningWatch Canada, Kairos Canada, Development and Peace Canada, and Accion Ecologica Ecuador, convened a strategy workshop particularly for OceanaGold. It forged an international people’s campaign to further strengthen the demand to hold OceanaGold accountable for its atrocities committed in the countries where it has abused and exploited.

While the national campaigns and local resistance against OceanaGold operations in the Philippines and El Salvador continues, solidarity campaigns and groups in Australia, Canada, Japan and US have pledged to provide the needed international exposure and support.

In the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez recommended OceanaGold for suspension for the reason that there had been strong opposition of local communities and the Local Government Unit (LGU).

And most recently, in anticipation of the ICISD decision, groups and networks of El Salvador had a protest action in front of World Bank’s headquarters last October 7, 2016 and in the Philippinesin front of OceanaGold’s office last October 13, 2016.

Now more than ever, the world will continue to stand with El Salvador, the Philippines and all people fighting against large-scale mining to strengthen our global front against OceanaGold. The International People’s Conference on Mining plans to file a case at the Permanent People’s Tribunal against Oceanagold to hold them accountable for the environmental damage and human rights violations they have committed. The people’s struggle in the Philippines and El Salvador against OceanaGold will not rest until OceanaGold has extricated itself from these countries.

This article was originally published in the International Peoples Mining Conference webpage:

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