MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Marinduque Exec Wary Of Denr Dam Report

Published by MAC on 2006-11-13
Source: Inquirer

Marinduque exec wary of DENR dam report


13th November 2006

BOAC, MARINDUQUE -- A provincial board member here has expressed apprehension over a report of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that the mine structures and waste facilities of Marcopper Mining Corp. in Sta. Cruz town had no cracks or seepages.

Alan Nepomuceno, board committee on public order and safety chair, said provincial leaders and environmental authorities should not feel complacent after the press statement made by DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes that the mining company's inactive dams were safe after the province was hit by an earthquake.

"It is true that Secretary Reyes had sent experts from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to inspect the dams after the quake and they said that there was nothing to worry about," said Nepomuceno.

"However, we cannot ignore the findings of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), to which we paid P20 million to conduct a 2-year study on the dams, identifying the Makulapnit Dam of Marcopper to be in imminent danger of collapsing," he added.

Engineers from the mining company also admitted in a special provincial board session last March that they had monitored leaks at the structures of the Makulapnit Dam, he said.

Prior to Reyes' press statement, the entire provincial board and the vice governor of this province met with Reyes and other DENR officials on Nov. 7 to discuss the integrity of the Marcopper dams and their immediate repair to prevent a repeat of the mine spill tragedy of 1996 in Boac River. Nepomuceno said they agreed that the repair of the dams would be funded by the $12 million escrow deposited by the mining company in a bank in Hong Kong known only to select government and Marcopper officials.

The escrow was initially intended for the cleanup of the Boac River. Nepomuceno said Reyes told them that the amount was still intact as assured by a former Placer Dome executive who is now working for an international non-government organization that is willing to undertake repairs of the Legacy Mines in the Philippines, including the Marcopper dams.

He failed to identify the former executive and the international NGO. Placer Dome used to own and operate Marcopper.

Government authorities, meanwhile, have to work double time because DENR engineer Mike Cabalda said during the meeting that the escrow fund is about to expire next year.

"We have to find ways to have it released as soon as possible," Nepomuceno added.

Reyes then instructed DENR Undersecretary Horacio Ramos that if the escrow fund is released for the repairs of the dams, the DENR will ban Canadian mining operations in the country until the Marcopper dams are repaired.

In a related development, Nepomuceno said the provincial government of Marinduque was planning to file a separate case against Placer Dome in Canada, in behalf of the victims of the Marcopper tragedy.

He said the jurisdictional issue of the case that they filed against Placer Dome in Nevada, USA had not yet been decided by the court.

"We are planning to file a separate case against them in Canada because if Marinduque loses the jurisdictional issue in Nevada, we will have a fallback," he said.

It will be recalled that the provincial government of Marinduque filed a $200-million lawsuit earlier this year against Placer Dome Inc. at the US Federal Court in Nevada to hold the mining company accountable for the damages made in the province and obtain just compensation for the Marinduqueños. Gerald Gene Querubin, Inquirer Southern Luzon

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