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Philippines human rights agency confirms OceanaGold probe

Tuesday 22nd July 2008

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A Philippines human rights agency has sought an investigation into alleged violations against indigenous tribes by OceanaGold Corp., which is developing the Didipio Copper Gold Project in the north of the country.

Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Leila De Lima said some of the indigenous groups live in the vicinity of mining operations of Oceana Gold Philippines Inc, according to a statement emailed to BusinessWire.

"We confirm that the commission has directed an investigation into the alleged human rights violations at the Oceana Gold mine site in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya," De Lima said.

The probe is into claims by various community groups that houses were illegally demolished without a court order or offer of relocation, the statement said. Some 187 homes had been destroyed, the commission said, citing the claims.

The commission statement also said the groups, including Friends of the Earth Philippines, Task Force Detainees and Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocate, asked for an investigation into "human rights abuses involving killings, forced negotiations and harassments which are connected to the demolition and the indigenous people's rights."

De Lima said her organization wants to broaden its investigation to the activities of mining companies in other parts of the Philippines.

OceanaGold, operator of Macraes, New Zealand's biggest gold mine, has said it is complying with Philippines law and rejects accusations the development is harming indigenous tribes.

OceanaGold expects to start producing from the A$320 million Didipio project in 2009 at an average rate of 120,000 ounces of gold and 15,000 tonnes of copper per annum, with over 15 years mine life.

The company said it hasn't heard from the Philippines human rights agency.

OceanaGold acquired Didipio through a merger with Climax Mining in 2006. Its shares were unchanged at NZ$1.25.

By Jonathan Underhill

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