Why Should We Care If Mine Tailings Spill?

Originally authored on October 5, 2015

Dubbed as the heart of the Philippines, Marinduque is the geographical center of our country. Coincidentally, the island is shaped like a human heart, making its monicker quite fitting. However, it’s prolonged been ravaged at its very heart ever since the open-pit mining at Mt. Tapian in 1969 was used to produce copper concentrate. Placer Dome, a Canadian company, co-owned 40% and managed the corporation. Soon, several open pits were set-up, tunnels to drain, and dams were built to serve as storage of mine waste directly flowing to the rivers. Agricultural fields were inundated, drinking water was contaminated. Fish, shrimps, and other food sources were instantly killed, causing loss of livelihood for the local people which made it challenging for them to survive.

Dams can only hold so much, until the worst catastrophe happened in 1996. The plug that sealed the Tapian pit tunnel to the Boac river had fractured releasing mine waste at a rate of 5-10 cubic meters per second. The pit contained 23 million metric tons of mine waste. The immediate effects were disastrous. Flash floods isolated villages with one buried under six feet of contaminated floodwater. The channels, as well as valley floors, were buried under mine tailings. Toxic silt and water flowed down the river and into the towns destroying homes, rice fields, and killing animals.

 

Decades after the disaster, toxic mine wastes still choke key waterways in Marinduque. As abandoned mine structures are still in need of repair, the threat of more mine tailings flowing into Boac, Mompog Rivers, and Calancan Bay remains. Marinduque has yet to be rid of millions of tons of mine wastes that has become the legacy of Marcopper Mining Corporation in the island.

Worse, medical professionals have observed an increase of chronic illnesses in people living near the waste sites, leading them to suspect and believe that toxic mining trash has been silently wreaking havoc on the residents’ health. A significant rise in the number of cases of goiter, diabetes, renal disease, spontaneous abortion, and even cancer particularly in the towns of Boac, Mompog, and Sta. Cruz. Even those with ages ranging from 8-19 years old have passed away due to diseases which is believed to be related to heavy-metal poisoning.

With no one behind bars, the mess left behind, and the community virtually abandoned to fend on its own, “Who owns up?”

* – credits to the owner/s for the pictures

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