MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines province sues Placer Dome, alleging environmental damage

Published by MAC on 2005-10-04

Philippines province sues Placer Dome, alleging environmental damage

Canadian Press

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

[MAC Editorial note: Please note there is an inaccuracy in the story, as the amount of the suit is open ended.]

OTTAWA (CP) - A Philippines provincial government is suing Canadian mining company Placer Dome Inc., alleging environmental damage to two rivers and a bay.

The provincial government of Marinduque, a small island in the central Philippines, is suing the mining giant for $100 million for environmental rehabilitation and compensation to residents.

The suit was filed Tuesday in Nevada, where Placer Dome has major holdings. It alleges that the company was irresponsible in managing waste from the mines.

Jim McCarthy, a Texas lawyer whose firm is handling the suit, says Placer Dome, as an international company, can be sued in any number of jurisdictions.

"You can be sued' he said.

Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada said Placer Dome fell short of its responsibilities in the Philippines.

She said mine waste has killed two rivers and smothered a bay that provided the livelihood of 12 fishing villages.

"A company such as Placer Dome that describes itself as a leader in the industry has an obligation to do more than provide lip service to principles of sustainability," Coumans said.

"Marinduque is currently not sustainable."

Vancouver-based Placer Dome company owned a 39.9 per cent stake in Marcopper Mining Corp., which operated open-pit mines on the island.

In 1996, officials shut down the mine after a drainage tunnel in a containment pond collapsed, discharging millions of tonnes of liquid waste into two rivers.

The company divested itself of its Marcopper holdings in 1997.

Coumans said that's no excuse.

"The food security and the health of current and future generations is clearly in jeopardy because of the ill-contained and highly toxic mine waste that is now is rivers and seas and in various other areas of the island," she said.

"This is what Placer Dome left behind and it is simply not good enough to say, 'We divested and now it is someone else's responsibility'."

NDP MP Ed Broadbent said the federal government should ensure that Canadian companies operating abroad hold to Canadian environmental and human rights standards.

"They should no longer be permitted to do abroad what they cannot do in Canada," he said.

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