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Investigation of OceanaGold's human rights record should spur regulatory action

Christina Hill [Acting Extractive Industries Advocacy Coordinator, Oxfam Australia]: "The news that the Human Rights Commission of the Philippines will investigate human rights abuses by Australian mining company OceanaGold, who is developing a gold and copper mine in Didipio is welcome. Didipio, which is located in the northern Philippines, is home to about 2,000 people including many Indigenous Peoples. Since 2002, Oxfam has been working with the Didipio community and its support groups to document complaints by the community of human rights abuses and bringing these complaints to the company's attention, and to a wider audience. As was reported by JURIST on 10 July, key community complaints include the destruction of people's homes and physical intimidation and assault. OceanaGold has also shown little regard for the principle of free, prior and informed consent.

OceanaGold has never substantially responded to the community's grievances. It is for this reason that Oxfam Australia released the Didipio report [pdf] and more recently wrote to the Philippines Human Rights Commission asking them to investigate the situation.

Meanwhile in June this year, Prof. John Ruggie, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, presented his "Protect, Respect and Remedy" framework [pdf] to the Human Rights Council. In his Framework, Prof. Ruggie emphasises that States, both host and home, have the duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business.

Oxfam Australia has long argued the need for an independent complaints mechanism for the Australian mining industry because industry self-regulation and host country regulatory systems are often an ineffective guarantee to community members at risk of harm, as the Didipio case shows. Oxfam believes that the Australian Government must take action and consider the development of measures — including an independent complaints mechanism for the mining industry - to prevent human rights abuses by Australian companies operating overseas. Other governments should do likewise.

Prof. Ruggie notes that there is increasing encouragement at the international level for home States to take regulatory action to prevent abuse by their companies overseas. The Australian Government would be keeping in step with current thinking if it were to respond appropriately."

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