MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Mining giant Placer Dome continues to deny responsibility for Philippine mining disaster

Published by MAC on 2005-04-28

Mining giant Placer Dome continues to deny responsibility for Philippine mining disaster

B.C. Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (BCCHRP) Media Release

April 28, 2005

Vancouver, B.C.– Despite being taken to task by a local Philippine solidarity group, Placer Dome CEO Peter Tomsett did not hesitate to deny responsibility for the clean-up and compensation of victims after the notorious 1996 Marcopper mining disaster in Marinduque, Philippines.

Although Marcopper was a partnership between Placer Dome and former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Tomsett proclaimed the company’s innocence and maintained that they had nothing to do with the disaster.

May Farrales, BCCHRP member, raised a question at the company’s annual meeting of shareholders yesterday in Vancouver about the company’s well-documented poor record of clean-up and compensation. Recently, OXFAM Australia released a report condemning the company’s toxic legacy in the Philippines. Instead, Tomsett told the meeting that Placer Dome has gone above and beyond its duty and no longer sees the necessity for compensation and rehabilitation.

In 1996, four million tonnes of mine tailings from the Marcopper mine flowed into the main river on the island of Marinduque. This massive mining disaster brought international attention to the dangers of large-scale foreign mining and the scandalous practices of Placer Dome.

Preceding the 1996 disaster were the dumping of tailings in Calancan Bay between 1987 and 1991; and a 1993 collapse that killed two children.

Geologists warn of another disaster if the remaining tailing dams are not immediately rehabilitated.

Today, nine years after the 1996 disaster, the people of Marinduque, Philippines, are still crying for justice from the mining giant. They cite health problems, loss of livelihood, displacement and living in constant fear of another disaster as issues that Placer Dome must answer for.

“It’s not at all surprising that Placer Dome is trying to escape its liability and responsibility by distancing itself from one of the worst mining disasters in history,” explains Farrales. “Under the globalization agenda, it is far too easy for such multinational mining corporations to plunder the national resources and patrimony of the Third World and enrich themselves with the profits – and then suddenly divest themselves of their assets and responsibilities when it is no longer profitable or expedient.” Farrales noted that Placer Dome conveniently sold its Philippine assets in 1997 and 2001. Currently, the company owns 17 mines in seven countries around the world.

Barbara Waldern, Chairperson of BCCHRP, who toured the Marinduque disaster site in 1998, stated, “In light of its announcement today of

$31 million in earnings in the first quarter of 2005 alone and reports from the people of Marinduque that they received only 1000 Philippine pesos (approximately $22 Canadian) in compensation for the death of a child, Placer Dome’s position is completely unacceptable and obscene.”

Waldern added, “We will continue to bring the cries for justice of the Filipino people to the attention of the Canadian people and the international community and name Placer Dome for the ‘ugly Canadian’ that it is.”

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