MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Marinduque villagers fear collapse of 5 dams

Published by MAC on 2005-01-03
Source: Manila Times

Marinduque villagers fear collapse of 5 dams

January 03, 2005

By Ronnie E. Calumpita, Manila Times

Villagers in three towns in Marinduque who were affected by the Marcopper Mining Corp. mining disaster have expressed concern over the imminent collapse of five mine-tailing dams, especially during storms and heavy rains.

Joveth Molado, chair of the Marinduquenos for the Nation and the Environment (Mine), said the residents are in constant state of alarm during storms and heavy rains in Mogpog, Boac and Santa Cruz in Marinduque where the Maguila-guila, Upper and Lower Makulapnit, San Antonio and Bol River dams are located.

"We urged the government to check on the dams because of their possibility of collapsing as stated in the Klown Crippen and the USGS [United States Geological Survey] studies," he said in an interview.

The results of the study on the structural flaws of the dams conducted in 2001 by Klown Crippen, a Canadian consultancy firm commis­sioned by the Placer Dome, a mining partner of Marcopper, was confirmed by the USGS in 2004.

Molado said the USGS stated in its study that the Maguila-guila Dam in Barangay Maligaya in Mogpog is the most critical one.

Despite the findings of the USGS, Mine and the Center for Environmental Concerns were not satisfied with the analysis of the US engineering team because it only recommends a detailed structural analysis of each dam instead of urging the government to move for the dams' speedy rehabilitation.

The USGS also recommend further analyses, monitoring and studies before any rehabilitation work can be made in Boac, Santa Cruz and Mogpog. The study on the assessment of the impacts of Marcopper mining in Marinduque cost the government P20 million.

The study, the results of which were released in July 2004, was supposed to provide detailed assessment of the damage caused by mining that will lead to the much delayed final environmental remediation.

Besides rehabilitation, the people of Boac, Mogpog and Santa Cruz also want Marcopper to compensate them for destroying their properties, including their rice fields and farmland.

Several people who were exposed to heavy metal poisoning after drinking contaminated water and eating contaminated fish and other seafood and vegetables have already died. They lost weight little by little.

The Maguila-guila Dam overflowed on December 6, 1993, bringing volumes of mine tailings to the Mogpog River, Delta Bay and several hectares of rice fields and farmland, which became unproductive.

Three years later, on March 24, 1996, the infamous mine-tailings spill by Marcopper mining operation occurred when the plug of the drainage tunnel of the Taipan open pit, where toxic mine tailings were disposed of, malfunctioned.

This affected several communities in Boac and Santa Cruz, including the Calancan Bay in Santa Cruz and the rivers of Boac, Makulapnit and Mogpog. The operation of Marcopper was stopped.

Even before the two mine-tailing spills, the Calancay Bay had long been the recipient of volumes of toxic mine tailings when the Marcopper allegedly disposed of its wastes to the bay since 1975 following the decommissioning of the San Antonio tailings pond.

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