|A lagoon of copper tailings are impounded in the former open pit mine
of the Marcopper Mining Corp. -AFP
Marinduque may soon be formally closed off to ore extraction activities after a measure banning mining in the province secured approval from the House of Representatives.
The chamber recently approved House Bill 5846 on second reading, bringing the province a step closer to becoming a mining-free zone.
In a statement yesterday, legislators acknowledged that the province is still reeling from the effects of the Marcopper toxic spill nearly two decades ago.
Rep. Regina O. Reyes, who represents the lone district of Marinduque and has been working for the total ban in the province, said: “The province of Marinduque has been enduring the detrimental consequences of the 1996 mining disaster and its aftermath.”
“It is brutal and criminal to the residents of Marinduque to allow the exploitation of natural resources which will inevitably lead to the exacerbation of this unresolved mining tragedy.”
The March 24, 1996 disaster struck the open-pit mining operation of Marcopper and Canadian company Placer Dome, Inc., leading to a massive spill of toxic mine tailings into provincial waters, contaminating Marinduque’s Boac River, its main source of clean water and fishing, and surrounding rivers and seas.
The toxic sludge likewise caused flash floods in the area, displacing families and damaging property, crops, and sources of livelihood, which have yet to “fully recover” from the man-made disaster.
A total ban on mining and quarrying activity in the province will be put in place once the measure passes into law. But gravel and sand processing for government infrastructure projects will be exempted.
Under the bill, violators face a fine of P1 million and imprisonment of 12 years, or both, at the discretion of the trial court.
The mining company also stands to be stripped of its license to operate.
The Marinduque mining ban comes amid a moratorium on new mining permits in accordance with a 2012 executive order by President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, pending a new mining law to replace the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
Earlier, the lower chamber approved bills declaring Davao City and the provinces of Eastern Samar, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, and Biliran as mining-free zones.
The measure will be taken up for third-reading approval when the House resumes session in July, after which it will be forwarded to the Senate for another round of talks.
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