23 years after, mine tailings still a threat to Marinduque, says official

MANILA – Many residents of Marinduque province still live in fear, almost 23 years after the area was hit by one of the largest mining disasters in the country.

These fears were awakened by the supposedly worsening condition of the Maguilaguila dam, which was recently inspected by the staff of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), according to Lord Allan Velasco, the lone district representative of Marinduque.

“Napansin namin na parang yung spillway tumataas na yung siltation niya. In other words, matatakpan na yung butas na paglalabasan ng tubig,” he said in an interview on DZMM Friday.

(We observed an in increase in the spillway’s siltation.)

Velasco said if the spillway gets blocked, water from the dam will find other exits.

“Baka talagang masira na ang integrity ng dam kaya medyo nakakakaba,” he said.

(We fear that this could weaken the dam foundation).

After last year’s inspection, he said the mining company has barred the entry of MGB. He also lamented that the firm has yet to make any move to fix the dam.

The lawmaker said he wrote to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to find ways on how to a similar disaster.

“Ang suggestion nila ay magtatayo ng gabion dam. A gabion dam is a dam they’ll put doon sa downstream ng river para in case pumutok yung dam, it will filter out at masalo yung siltation. Kaya lang hanggang ngayon hinihintay pa rin natin yung pagpapagawa nila ng gabion dam doon,” said Velasco.

(They suggested the construction of gabion dam, which will filter water and prevent siltation. But we have yet to see a gabion dam get constructed.)

The disaster on March 24, 1996 saw million tons of mine tailings spilling into rivers, killing marine life and livelihood.

Velasco said the provincial government filed a $100-million class suit against Marcopper’s parent company, Canadian firm Placer Dome–later bought by Barrick Gold, also a Canadian firm–for the disaster.

He said Barrick Gold offered Marinduque a $20-million settlement to drop the case and admit that Marcopper and Placer Dome were not liable for the disaster.

However, the class suit filed in Las Vegas, Nevada was dismissed. – This story was first published on ABS-CBN News

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