Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Updates and highlights: Marinduque environmental case against Placer Dome and Barrick Gold


A rally in Boac against Placer Dome / Barrick Gold
“Yes, you can say that we are close to a potential settlement,” Scott said in a phone interview on Monday evening, although he declined to comment on its details, despite Raza’s statements.
He said the deal framework on the table, from the side of the Philippines, involved Philippine legal experts Fr. Joaquin Bernas and Sedfrey Candelaria from Ateneo, environmental lawyer Tony Oposa, retired Justice Josue Bellosillo, former Philippine Ambassador to the World Trade Organization Manuel Teehankee and 
professors Harry Roque* and Ruben Balane. 
Inquirer.net

(*"Disclosure: I stood as counsel for (Regina) Reyes in the afore-discussed (disqualification) case."
 - Harry Roque)

"More recently events in Marinduque have again taken on a more 
distinct character, primarily because the mine has remained closed since 
the tailings spill in 1996. Provincial elites, and even many of their follow- 
ers, earlier thought they could not live without the mine, but have learned 
to do so, with a certain success. And, with little or no Marcopper financ- 
ing for local politicians, some of them have become more responsive to 
citizen demands. 

"The citizens of Marinduque have also been especially 
fortunate in being the beneficiary of the skillful efforts of a Canadian 
environmentalist, long familiar with the provincial scene, who helped 
focus international NGO attention on their problems and helped broker 
an agreement that brought the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to the 
island to make the first comprehensive study of ecological problems. Yet, 
in the meantime, a waste rock dam and a tailings pond have so deterio- 
rated that they can break with the next heavy rain, causing a disaster that 
can raise conflict with Marcopper (whose administration remains on the 
scene) to a new level. Because of Placer Dome's earlier exaggerated 
claims to be sensitive to "environmental sustainability," it has gained 
worldwide notoriety for walking away from its responsibilities. 

"Sensing their increasing unpopularity, Marcopper/Placer Dome had 
allocated their resources carefully during the 1998 election. The campaign for governor by the sitting congresswoman, Carmencita Reyes-a scion of the family that in the 1950s was the largest owner of rice lands in the Philippines-was beneficiary of a large company grant for electric power development. Her well-funded campaign was successful. 
The alliance with the mining company, still hopeful of reopening, seemed to consolidate her family's political control. Her son, Edmund Reyes, won the race for congressman even if he had no previous electoral experience. There seemed to be recognition of mutual benefit between the Reyes family and Marcopper/Placer Dome...

"...In 2005 he contacted an experienced American law firm to 
prepare a multimillion dollar lawsuit against Placer Dome to cover 
costs of rehabilitation in Boac, Mogpog, and Calancan Bay. 
The law firm is launching the suit on behalf of the provincial board 
of Marinduque, thus indicating that the governor is also behind it..."

- Mining and the Environment in the Philippines: The Limits on 
Civil Society in a Weak State, David Wurfel

More recent case documents from the Supreme Court of the State of Nevada on the settlement negotiations between the Provincial Government of Marinduque and Placer Dome, Inc. and Barrick Gold Corporation:


November 1, 2013 - Having considered the stipulated status report filed by appellant, the Court concluded that the stay should remain in place and that appellant should file an updated status report concerning settlement within 60 days from this date.

December 27, 2013 - Appellant PGM and respondents Placer Dome and Barrick Gold filed a stipulated Status Report pursuant to the Court's Order of Dec. 6, 2011 granting the parties stipulated motion for a stay. (Read details). The document states that the Parties have filed several status reports indicating that settlement discussions are ongoing between the parties, that negotiations have advanced, and that, however, the typhoon that caused major destruction in the Philippines in November has diverted attention from settlement negotiations and delayed resolution in this matter.   



January 10, 2014 - Having considered the status report, the Court concluded that the stay should remain in place, and that appellant shall file an updated status report concerning settlement within 60 days from the date of this order.


The Marcopper dams. Have deteriorated dangerously since abandonment of the mines.


Nov. 20, 2013 - Dumalo sa session ng SP ang mga American lawyers kasama sina Atty. Ongsiako at PA Raza. From Facebook of Bokal Adeline Lyn Angeles

"Placer Dome's own consultants, Canada's Klohn Crippen, warned in a report leaked in 2001 of "danger to life and property" related to inadequate mine structures holding back waste. These structures have been deteriorating ever since.

"Any recovery from Barrick has to be applied to immediate stabilization of dangerously shoddy mine structures, rehabilitation of contaminated rivers and coastal areas, and permanent solutions for the tons of mine waste still at the defunct mine sites in the mountains of Marinduque. But what Barrick has reportedly laid on the table is insufficient for this task.

Clean up of mine waste from other contaminated sites around the world indicates that rehabilitation on a scale that is required in Marinduque could easily run into hundreds of  millions of dollars. Canada's Teck Resources Ltd. spent $55 million just on studies to prepare for rehabilitation of areas it contaminated by dumping some 9.97 million tons of slag containing heavy metals into the Columbia River. Clean up of that contamination has been estimated to run as high as $1 billion.

"On October 19, Elizabeth Manggol  of a Church-based group, Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns, told the Inquirer that "the proposed settlement should be rejected, 'not only because the amount was too small, but because of certain conditions absolving the company of environmental damages'. 'Among those conditions is that the settlement proceeds can never be used for the repair and rehabilitation (of the damaged rivers and mining structures) when it was the purpose (of the lawsuit) in the first place."

What President Aquino, his advisor on environmental protection Secretary Nereus Acosta, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have to recognize is that if funds recovered from Barrick cannot be used to address the urgent risks to health and safety posed by the legacy of irresponsible mining in Marinduque, or if the recovery from Barrick is insufficient to cover the true costs of this work, these costs will ultimately be borne by tax payers, locally and nationally. Barrick's unwillingness to shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that the environment and people of Marinduque are made secure means that the province's unfortunate role as the poster child for irresponsible mining, past and present, will surely continue."


- Dr. Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada, Philippines: Marinduque 'Pushed to the Wall' by Barrick Gold


UNDP highlights Marinduque mining experience:
"Mining has led to serious environmental damage. In 1996, the breakage of a drainage plug holding toxic mining waste at the Marcopper mine made global news. The poisonous wastes were allegedly dumped into the Boac River and resulted in the release of over 1.6 million cubic meters of tailings along 27 km of the river and the coastal areas. The impact on the river and the people who depend on it for their livelihoods was massive...

"A report by the Department of Health indicated that residents could be harbouring in their bodies amounts of zinc and copper beyond tolerable limits. Residents also complained of skin irritations and respiratory problems which could have been caused by the poisonous vapours emitted by hydrogen sulfide and nitrous oxide from the mine wastes...

"The legislature promulgated in 2010 new Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases (theRules), a landmark instrument representing a significant reform in environmental litigation and protection. The Rules lay down procedures governing the civil, criminal, and special civil actions in all trial courts regarding environmental cases, with a view to protecting and advancing the constitutional right of the people to health and to a balanced and healthful ecology, and providing a simplified, speedy, and inexpensive procedure for the enforcement of environmental rights under Philippines law.

"The Rules empowers the courts to issue environmental protection orders as an immediate action to protect the environment and the communities affected. Other remedies and orders direct government agencies to protect, preserve or rehabilitate the environment. The Rules also enable communities to petition for the suspension or stoppage of destructive, environmental and development activities through the Citizen’s Suit provision.

"While promulgation of theRules was a landmark achievement, their effective implementation would not be assured without substantial awareness-raising on the new procedures, and capacity-building amongst the judiciary and other stakeholders."




"In March 2011, the Supreme Court granted aWrit of Kalikasan to three petitioners against Placer Dome, Inc. and Barrick Gold Corporation concerning the Marcopper mining disaster that took place in 1996 in Marinduque, and, in July 2011, the Supreme Court ordered the Court of Appeals to hear and decide the case. The petitioners contended that Placer Dome should be held liable for expelling some 2 million cubic meters of toxic industrial waste in the area and failing to rehabilitate the waters in three Luzon provinces—Romblon, Marinduque and Quezon."


- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Environmental Justice in the Philippines

Also read:

The people of Marinduque resist Barrick's unfair settlement

Susong Dalaga Hill

Susong Dalaga Hill
Susong Dalaga Hill from Bagtasan isthmus

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