MAC: Mines and Communities

Closed Mining Firm Owes P260m In Taxes, Back Wages

Published by MAC on 2006-03-24

Closed mining firm owes P260M in taxes, back wages

By Carla P. Gomez, Inquirer

24th March 2006

Editor's Note: Published on Page A15 of the March 25, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

BACOLOD CITY - Maricalum Mining Corp. (MMC) in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental shut down in 2001. Yet until now it still owes local governments more than P90 million in real property taxes and its employees about P170 million in back wages and separation pay.

Sipalay City Mayor Oscar Montilla said that the copper mining company owes his city more than P50 million in back taxes.

He said Maricalum also owed almost P40 million in real property taxes to Sipalay's neighboring town of Cauayan, where the company also used to operate a copper mine.

A check with the Negros Occidental's treasury office, however, showed that as of 2005, Maricalum owed Cauayan P52.2 million and Sipalay P47.8 million. The unpaid land taxes for both local government units date back to 1998.

The Sipalay City government last year attempted to auction off MMC property but was stopped by a temporary restraining order issued by the Court of Appeals in Cebu.

Montilla said they were still appealing the CA ruling.

The Sipalay mines, which started operating in 1957 in Barangay San Jose, were closed on July 2, 2001 because of a labor dispute and complaints of environmental pollution. The closure left more than 5,000 workers jobless.

Montilla said after the city's experience with MMC, they remained open to mining operators but would only allow responsible mining companies.
He said he had asked the help of environment lawyer Antonio Oposa and a German consultant to ensure that future mining operations in the city would strictly comply with environment laws.

Records obtained from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources showed that MMC continued to cause environmental problems despite it having ceased operation for almost five years.

An MGB report posted on its website said that even after the company shut down, its inactive Tailings Pond No. 3 in Barangay Gil Montilla in Sipalay continued to emit dust. It has an area of about 125 hectares.

The report said the dust emitted by the tailings pond has polluted the air in surrounding areas, causing increased respiratory related illnesses to residents.

The MGB report said the tailings pond contained over 111 metric tons of mine tailings (water waste) discharged over its 20 years of operation.

After the MMC ceased operation and without any new tailings discharge into the pond, a portion of the pond began to dry up. Dust accumulated starting in December 2001.

The volume of dust in the pond would peak during dry and windy months from December to April or May, according to the MGB report.

The dust fall-out in nearby areas reach five kilometers, south and southwest of the tailings pond, the report added.

The MGB in Western Visayas had recommended that MMC install a sprinkler system or flooding irrigation system to control the dust but MMC, instead, placed lines of "windbreaks" made of coconut fronds across the dry portion of the tailings pond and resorted to other methods.

The MGB quoted the MMC as saying that it was using cheap methods to control the dust because of financial difficulties and because of the loss of a sprinkler system that it was using before.

PDI Visayas Bureau

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