MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Fears raised over mining dam in danger of collapse

Published by MAC on 2006-07-15

Fears raised over mining dam in danger of collapse

By Gerald Gene R. Querubin, Inquirer

14th July 2006 Published on Page A19 of the July 14, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

BOAC, MARINDUQUE-A non-government organization here raised concerns over the possible collapse of a mining dam that had been abandoned following massive spills in 1996.

Concerns over the dam came as the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources identified 35 barangays in this province where landslides can possibly occur.

The MGB, in an earlier report, identified Marinduque as the seventh most landslide-prone province in the country.

The MGB identified the landslide-prone areas in a study and ocular inspection report.

Of the villages tagged as landslide-prone, eight are in the town of Boac, six in Gasan, three in Buenavista, seven in Sta. Cruz and 11 in Torrijos.

Aside from landslides, provincial board member Allan Nepomuceno, committee on public order and safety chair, and the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns, raised concerns on the possible collapse of a Marcopper dam.

According to them, engineers from the Marcopper Mining Corp. (MMC) have admitted that they had monitored leaks at the structures of the Makulapnit Dam, which is in imminent danger of collapse because of its rapid deterioration.

Should it break, 34 million cubic meters of water and silt will cascade down the Boac River.

"With the continuous heavy rains that we are experiencing now, the aging dam may not be able to hold additional volume of water and burst. This is the same scenario in 1995 before the tragic mine tailings spillage occurred a year after in 1996," Nepomuceno said.

In March 1996, the whole town of Boac was submerged in flood waters and tailings brought about by a collapsed tunnel of MMC's Tapian Pit.

The MGB said people living in the villages that were tagged landslide-prone must be forewarned.

The bureau said an information campaign was needed to prompt people in the villages to prepare for disasters and prevent a tragedy similar to that which struck Guinsaugon town in Southern Leyte.

Almost 1,000 people, many of them children, were buried alive in Guinsaugon.

In December 2005, two persons died when their hut was hit and covered by mud and rocks in Duyay, Boac.

In a study made by engineer Cirilo Monilla, a professor of the Marinduque State College, only four of the six municipalities of Marinduque have the capacity to respond immediately to disasters, such as landslides and flash floods.

The municipalities of Boac, Gasan, Sta. Cruz and Torrijos passed the criteria of preparedness.

The towns of Mogpog and Buenavista must improve their respective disaster preparedness programs, the study said.

Makulapnit Dam is among the dams of MMC identified to be in "imminent danger of collapsing" by the United States Geological Services, which made a two-year survey and assessment of the March 1996 Marcopper tailings spill.

Makulapnit Dam was built to supply water for MMC's operations and for household use of residences near it.

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