Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Marcopper mining disaster remembered in the Philippines

Thousands of people from different villages and municipalities of Marinduque province in Luzon Island joined the sandbagging of Mogpog river bank in Bocboc village in Mogpog town on Tuesday, March 24, 2009 to prevent further flooding in the area due to heavily silted riverbed from the toxic mine tailings from the tailings dam of Marcopper Mining Corporation. The event also commemorates the 13th year anniversary of the 1996 Marcopper mining disaster that inundated the Boac River by toxic mine tailing, causing hazards to the environment and health of the residents. (AKP IMAGES / Buck Pago)

Marinduque, Philippines – Filipinos on Tuesday commemorated the 13th anniversary of the Marcopper mining disaster that inundated the Boac River with tons of toxic mine tailings, inflicting health, economic and environmental hazards to the locals.

The toxic mine tailings killed the river and the tragedy was considered the most dreadful legacy of large scale mining disaster in the country’s history.
This year’s activity drew attention to the heavily silted Mogpog River that flooded the village of Bocboc only last month. The river bed sits at same level of elevation as the community due to siltation.

In solidarity with the communities of Mogpog, villagers from the municipalities of Boac, Gasan, Buenavista, and Santa Cruz have banded together to help put sandbags along the river banks to prevent future flooding.

The Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC) spearheaded the sandbagging participated by more than 1,000 residents, including mayors Senen Livelo of Mogpog and Meynardo Solomon, of Boac municipalities.

The Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Phils. (LRC-KsK/FoE Phils.) attended the event in solidarity with the people of Marinduque.

Those who joined in the sandbagging were surprised to see soldiers and policemen also participating in building a temporary dike.

Provincial environmentalist Danilo Quirejero lauded the efforts of the community and acknowledged the need to solve the main problem which is the real and continuing threat of the Maguila-guila tailings dam that until today contains millions of cubic meters of toxic tailings.

He said the unity of the people to protect their environment was overwhelming that some 2,000 sandbags were filled and served as a temporary dike.

In Quezon City, indigenous peoples, peasants and non-government organizations under the pro-environment group called Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), staged a symbolic sandbagging of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) main office on Tuesday as their way of commemorating the mining disaster.

“It has been thirteen years since the drainage tunnel plug of the San Antonio pit failed, discharging its toxic contents into the Boac and Makulapnit rivers, effectively killing all life therein. Prior to this disaster, Marcopper was also responsible for spilling mine tailings and other chemicals into the Mogpog River when the Maguila-guila Dam broke at the height of typhoon Monang in December 1993,” Ronald Gregorio, of the LRC, said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

“The people of Marinduque continue to suffer the destructive effects of mining in their province even as justice continues to elude them. The Marinduque case demonstrates our government’s failure to protect its citizens from large scale mining companies who violate our laws and environmental and safety standards with impunity,” Gregorio said.

LRC said that prior to the 1993 Marcopper mining disaster; the Mogpog and Boac Rivers had watered crops like coconut, banana and cassava. The rivers also provided an invaluable source of food to residents.

“Today, the people of Marinduque are conducting sandbagging operations along the Mogpog due to fears of a possible overflow of the heavily silted river. Almost two decades after the tragedy, Marinduque is still dealing with the aftermath. This is illustrative of the long term negative impacts of large-scale mining operations which unfortunately our government is vigorously promoting,” said Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator.

“While the people of Marinduque conduct sandbagging operations in response to the threat of flooding from the same dam that caused the infamous disaster of 1993, ATM is sandbagging the DENR to symbolize the threat it poses to other communities due to its leadership’s ill-advised, all-out support for mining,” Garganera added.

ATM is currently holding a week-long Anti-Mining Solidarity protests to dramatize growing opposition to large-scale mining all over the country.

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