Since today was a holiday, I decided to update my blog and publish the contents I wrote about my Marinduque trip earlier this year. As I was publishing and updating them, I came across an article in Inquirer.
The news article discussed how the Marinduque government will settle for a $20 Million compensation following Philippines worst mining disaster in 1996. This sum is way below the actual cost of damages amounting to close to $100 Million. However, the government is being forced into accepting the settlement because they see no other option since the prosecuted firm – Barrick is merely a firm which purchased the original perpetrators Placer Dome Inc. and who are now rumored to be losing billions. Fearing a repeat of the past wherein the sued company (Placer Dome Inc.) had to file for bankruptcy and be saved by another company (Barrick Gold) which would lead to the start of a new round of litigations, Marinduque is close to accepting the $20 Million compensation which after litigation fees would amount to $13.5 Million – a sum barely enough to compensate for the damage brought about to the Boac River and the people of Marinduque.
In 1996, Marinduque witness one of the worst mining disasters in the Philippines when a fracture in the drainage tunnel of a large pit containing left over mine tailings from the operations of Marcopper Mining, a Canadian-owned mining firm, discharged toxic-mine waste into the Makulaprit-Boac river system leading to flash floods in areas along the river. The worst case was that of Bgy. Hinapulan wherein the entire barangay was submerged in 6-feet of muddy waters and 400 families had to be displaced. Other villages also had to be evacuated, drinking water became contaminated and animals both freshwater and livestock were killed. Crop and irrigation channels were clogged destroying crops and vegetable gardens as river water were displaced by tailings. The aftermath of the disaster rendered Boac River unusable and saw residents harboring beyond tolerable limits of zinc and copper in their blood system. After the disaster, Marcopper, who started mining operations in the province in 1969 ceased their operations in 1996. But in the years to follow, numerous health diseases cropped up such as children found to have high levels of lead in their blood.
It was only in October 2005 that the provincial government of Marinduque sued Placer Dome, Marcopper’s parent company, for $100 Million in damages. In 2006, Placer Dome was purchased by Barrick Gold who has now joined in the lawsuit.
After reading the Inquirer news item and researching the facts related to the case, it became clear in my mind the irregularities I had witnessed during my visit in Marinduque. For one, I had witnessed huge river systems without water and seemingly dead. When I asked a local if their river system is usually dry during the summer, they said that it is really dry all year out however they experience floods in the area during the typhoon season. The local also complained that the river, since running water no longer passes through it, has become a convenient garbage dumping site.
Likewise, I had witnessed huge carvings in the mountains located in the middle of the island. Signs of “NO TO MINING” were plastered in most areas although at that time they remain unobtrusive to the usual tourist. Furthermore, on my hike up Mt. Malindig, I noted that the mountain was mostly denuded – depleted of the natural rainforest typical in most mountains – and instead replaced by crops such as arrowroot, corn, and taro and planted with lines of trees such as coconut. And most interestingly enough, I noted that the villagers living in the mountaintops mostly appeared to be well-off citizens of the province.
At that time, I noted that something seemed amiss but I wasn’t able to aptly put my finger on it. It was only after uncovering all these facts about the Marcopper Mining Disaster that things started to become clear.
As of the moment, the provincial government hasn’t accepted the offer. But they are close to doing so since they are averse to fighting the long fight towards justice. But if it were up to me, I would fight the long fight. Accepting the pitiful settlement amount, although better than nothing, is still a disservice to the extent of the damages done both to the environment and the local residents of Marinduque. But then again, political agenda come into play in this instance and to uncover the real political deals in Marinduque and how it relates to the Marcopper Mining Disaster will be a topic for another story.
- MGB denies existence of fund for rehab of Boac River in Marinduque (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Of Barrick Gold, Marcopper and Nevada (marinduquegov.blogspot.com)
- Marinduque Folks Lose Case vs Mine Firm (newsinfo.inquirer.net)