#WhyMining Conversation: Which is worse, Philex or Marcopper incident?

Join the #WhyMining online discussion on Friday, November 16, 4pm to 6pm, for a Twitter conversation to discuss how the mining incidents in Benguet mountain province and Marinduque island compare

MANILA, Philippines – Join the #WhyMining online discussion on Friday, November 16, for a Twitter conversation regarding incidents that happen in mining sites.

From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and using the hashtag #WhyMining, representatives from business, environment, non-government, students and others who have a stake in or opinion on the mining industry will discuss how the mining incidents in Benguet mountain province and Marinduque island compare. 

The conversation is a take-off from the recent report released by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-MGB) saying the Padcal incident in Benguet involving Philex Mining Corp. is now considered the ‘biggest mining disaster in the Philippines’ in terms of volume.

The Marcopper disaster, however, is still dubbed as the worst mining disaster in terms of toxicity and damage.

Below is a summary of the salient points of comparison of the two mining disasters.

 PhilexMarcopper
Date August 2012 December 1993 & March 1996
Location Padcal, Benguet Marinduque
Volume of waste 20.69 million metric tons 2-3 million metric tons
Damage The mine wastes spilled and polluted the Balog Creek affecting aquatic life and 42 communities. 
The government placed a P1-billion fine for the violations incurred by the company atop other penalties including a P200,000/day for Clean Water Act violations. Total discharged sediments in the Balog River is 13.5 million cubic meters. 
The leakage into the rivers resulted in flash floods and forced 20,000 villagers to evacuate.
The government placed damages to marine life at P6 million.
The Department of Health warned that the locals could have zinc in their bodies beyond the 200% safe level.
Four million tons of tailings filled the riverbed, and the Boac river was declared dead.
Water system affected  Balog Creek, Agno River Mogpog River, Boac River
Mining site At a mountain province Island ecosystem
Remediation efforts Employee-volunteers clean-up and rehabilitation of Balog River
Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) implementation
gave approximately P800,000 for damages to affected families
Paid P38.5-M to 5,318 claimants through EGF but 5,242 claimants are still waiting for a total of P64-M compensation clean-up of Boac and Mogpog River
Post-disaster situation Immediately admitted responsibility and communicated to stakeholders the financial impact and clean-up efforts being done Marcopper Mining Corporation took no action immediately after the spill, due to lack of finances. Minority owner and Canadian firm Placer Dome accepted responsibility for the costs of clean up.
Legal steps take Still contesting the P1-B fine imposed by the government 1998 – Mogpog town council passed a resolution in rehabilitating damages. It was never acted on.

2000 – Marcropper, DENR and Marinduque signed MOA finalizing clean-up, rehabilitation and restoration plan of the site.

2001 – P41-M lawsuit for damages filed by Mogpog residents and P49.2-B class suit filed by Calancan Bay Fisherfolk Federation (CBFF) — both are still not resolved.


 

Marcopper Disaster

The Canadian-operated Macopper Mining Corporation is involved in two mining disasters. One in December 1993 involving the Maguila-guila Dam and the more infamous mine spill in Marinduque on March 1996.

Despite protests on the construction of the Maguila-guila Dam regarding pollution and increased flooding, Marcopper Mining Corp. went ahead and built the infrastructure in 1991. Due to the tropical climate of the country, seasonal rains are inevitable. In 1993, heavy rains caused intense rainfall causing the dam to collapse and cause flooding. The incident polluted the Mogpog River with toxins, destroying communities, agricultural lands and killed two people.

Three years later, another mining disaster happened in the nearby Marinduque province. The spill, claimed by the company as caused by a minor earthquake, saw 2-3 million tons of mine waste spilled in the Boac River. The spill caused flash floods burying villages under six feet of floodwater. Agricultural and marine life got affected drastically that the government declared Boac River dead. 20 out of 60 villages had to be evacuated with approximately 20,000 people affected.

Despite glaring damages and reports of sickness, Marcopper claimed that the spill were non-toxic. The mining site was closed and the operations ceased after the incident.

DISASTER. Villagers look at mine waste that overflowed from the Boac River after a damaged tunnel of the Marcopper Mining Corp discharged tons of copper mine tailings polluting the Boac River. The leak began when a concrete plug in an abandoned tunnel connecting Marcopper's tailings pit to the Boac River burst. Photo by AFP

Philex incident

On August 1, one of Philex’s Padcal tailings pond suffered a series of leakages due to heavy rains from the onslaughts of tropical typhoons Ferdie and Gener. The incident saw 20.69 million metric tons of mine waste, the biggest spill in terms of volume.

The mine waste flowed through the Balog Creek, an adjacent water channel with Agno River, and polluted the 2.5 kilometer body of water

Philex stressed that what was discharged was non-toxic. Environmental groups were not convinced and presented their own report declaring the Balog Creek as ‘biologically dead’.

Despite being slapped by P1-B fine by MGB due to the damages and violations of the spill, Philex vice president Mike Toledo said the company is keen in cleaning-up the spill and rehabilitating the immediate environment.

“[The company is keen] to remediate the effects of the spill on the environment and surrounding communities,” Toledo said in a previous interview.

Below is a report on what happened at Philex’s tailings pond after the spill. 

The mining industry has been deemed as one of the largest potential contributor to the country’s economy yet with the issues and controversies it’s currently facing, the fact proves to be elusive. The industry has been marred by disasters with the current Philex incident written in the books.

Yet with how Philex is trying to remediate the damage of the disaster, one may ask if its comparison to Marcopper is fair. Who incurred more damage and to what extent? What are their mistakes and is their negligence on the part of the mining companies? What have they done to remediate the damages in the environment and surrounding communities? Who’s more responsible?

Join the #WhyMining conversation and be heard! – Rappler.com

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