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Standoff escalates at OceanaGold's suspended Didipio mine in Philippines

Police forces in Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines, dispersed a barricade formed by local groups opposed to OceanaGold Corp.'s Didipio gold and copper mine amid a national lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, Mongabay reported April 6.

The barricade was an extralegal measure backed by the provincial government after the miner's permit to operate lapsed on June 20, 2019, the report said. On July 1, 2019, local communities set up a blockade to prevent the entry of fuel tankers and service vehicles into the site, and on Oct. 15, 2019, OceanaGold formally suspended operations while processing its application for an extension.

In January, President Rodrigo Duterte authorized the entry of 63,000 liters of fuel to the Didipio mine site. On April 6, about 100 police personnel assisted the entry of the vehicles into Didipio, which prompted the latest escalation.

The police detained Didipio Earth Savers Multi-Purpose Association Chair Rolando Pulido after the dispersal, according to the report.

Nueva Vizcaya Governor Carlos Padilla, meanwhile, said that Duterte's authorization for the delivery of fuel did not permit the mining company to continue its operations.

"The provincial government recognizes the authority granted by the Office of the President to [OceanaGold unit] OceanaGold Philippines Inc. to transport fuel for its dewatering activities," Padilla said in a letter addressed to Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año.

"We have reservations, however, as to the amount of fuel to be transported to the mine site," Padilla said, claiming that it was "excessive."

Mongabay noted that the standoff happened as gold prices are rising amid the COVID-19 pandemic.