MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Suit vs Canadian mining firm a test case for RP

Published by MAC on 2005-10-08

Suit vs Canadian mining firm a test case for RP

Oct 08, 2005

By Blanche S. Rivera, Philippine Daily Inquirer News Service

THE LAWSUIT against the company that ran the Marcopper mines is a test case for the Philippine government, which is promoting "responsible mining" as the backbone of the country's economic development, a top environment official said Friday.
Environment undersecretary for Mining Rado Dimalibot said the government "recognized" the claim of the Marinduque provincial government against Placer Dome Inc. as legitimate, adding its citizens had the right to sue the Canadian mining giant for damage done to the local environment.

Dimalibot said the cleanup and rehabilitation of the Marcopper mine sites, from which mine tailings flowed into two rivers in 1996, was crucial to the success of the revitalized Philippine mining industry.

"This is very crucial because even the private sector is affected. Other mining firms are having a hard time here because the issue of Marcopper is always raised against them. They are also suffering because of what happened to Marcopper," Dimalibot said in a phone interview yesterday.

"This is what you might call a test case for us," he added.

He said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources would also take Placer Dome and its local partner Marcopper Mining Corp. to court if the two companies refuse to rehabilitate the mine sites by yearend.

"We are talking now and we're trying to work together, but if they keep a stubborn stance and do not rehabilitate soon, eventually we may reach that point," Dimalibot said.

A team composed of at least 16 experts from the private sector, Marcopper, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the Chamber of Mines and the Department of Health is going to Marinduque this month.

Michael V. Cabalda, chief of the MGB's Mining Environmental Safety division, said the team would validate the rehabilitation proposed for the urgent problems identified by the government-commissioned US Geological Society study.

The USGS study listed the Maguila-guila dam, Tapian Pit 310, Tunnel 193 bulkhead final plug, the Bol River dam and both the Upper and Lower Makulapnit dams as needing the most urgent remediation.

"It's very important that Marcopper completes the rehabilitation because it will showcase our will to do things right, that we're not just for the proliferation of mining but we want only those who can handle the social cost," Cabalda told Inquirer News Service in an interview Friday.

He said the MGB has prepared a rehabilitation proposal for the identified areas, regardless of the cost of the project.

"If it's just the government, we will over-design. We will ensure that we have the best that technology can offer. We did not consider the cost that Marcopper would incur; the bottom line is to make it safe," he said.

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