|Copper mine waste spilled in Boac River, killing fish in this 1996 photo -AFP|
A lawmaker has proposed to declare Marinduque as a mining-free zone, citing the continued threat of the Marcopper toxic spill nearly two decades after the 1996 disaster.
Rep. Regina O. Reyes, who represents the lone district of Marinduque, filed House Bill 5566, which seeks to declare a total mining ban in the province.
“The province of Marinduque has been enduring the detrimental consequences of the 1996 mining disaster and its aftermath,” Ms. Reyes said in a statement released yesterday. “It is brutal and criminal… to allow exploitation of natural resources which will inevitably lead to the exacerbation of this unresolved mining tragedy.”
The March 24, 1996 disaster in the open-pit mining operations of Marcopper and Canadian company Placer Dome, Inc. led to a massive spill of toxic mine tailings to provincial waters.
As a result, the spill contaminated 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 properties, crops, and sources of livelihood, Ms. Reyes said, adding that the province has yet to make a full recovery from the disaster.
“To date, the province has yet to receive justice and reparation for the victims of the 1996 Marcopper incident,” the lawmaker said, adding that full rehabilitation and restoration efforts as promised by the mining firm have not been fulfilled.
A total ban for mining and quarrying activities in the province will be put in place once the measure is passed into law. Processing of gravel and sand that will be used for government infrastructure projects are exempted.
Those who will continue mining operations despite the ban will be jailed for at least six to 12 years, and a fine of as much as P500,000.
The measure is pending before the committee on natural resources of the House of Representatives. It comes amid an executive order issued in 2012 by President Benigno S. C. Aquino III declaring a moratorium for the grant of new mining permits in the country, pending the enactment of 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.