OceanaGold cuts output targets for 2019 on Philippines mine halt

Didipio mine is located 270 km north of Manila. (Image courtesy of OceanaGold Corp.)

Australia’s OceanaGold (TSX, ASX: OGC) on Tuesday lowered its annual gold and copper output targets for the year after halting processing at its Didipio mine in the Philippines, due to an ongoing dispute with the local government around its license to operate.

The mid-tier gold producer cut its full-year production guidance to 460,000-480,000 ounces of gold and 10,000-11,000 tonnes of copper, assuming no further production or sales for the remainder of the year at Didipio.

Previously, the Melbourne-based company had said it expected to churn out 500,000-550,000 ounces of gold and 14,000-15,000 tonnes of copper for the year.

Since early July, local government units from the province of Nueva Vizcaya have blocked access to and from the Didipio mine site, in response to a directive from the Governor to “restrain” the company’s operations.

The guidance cut assumes no further production or sales for the remainder of the year at the company’s Didipio mine

Provincial authorities claim they have been largely bypassed in the permit renewal process, which existing laws place under the national government’s realm.

Later in July, the company suspended underground mining, but kept processing ore at the site, located 270 km north of the capital Manila.

OceanaGold sought a court injunction in September as part of its appeal against the Nueva Vizcaya provincial court ruling denying its request to end what it called an “unlawful restraint of operations.”

“With the timing of the Court of Appeals injunction decision uncertain, and efforts to finalise a renewal of the FTAA (Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement) ongoing, we have no other choice but to temporarily suspend production at Didipio,” president and chief executive, Mick Wilkes, said in the statement.

“This is a very disappointing outcome for the company, our shareholders and our truly valued Filipino workforce,” he noted.

OceanaGold has overcome conflict with the Philippines government in the past, including a 2017 plan by former environment and natural resources secretary Regina Lopez to suspend several mining operations in the country.

Didipio, which began production in 2013, has a Measured and Indicated resources of 1.3 million ounces of gold and 160,000 tonnes of copper.

Other than Didipio, OceanGold has three more mines — Haile in the United States, and Macraes and Waihi in New Zealand.

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