Thursday, October 1, 2015

Letting Marinduque's Barrick Gold case sleep on whose orders?

Independent newspaper in Vancouver, Canada, Asian Pacific Post, ran the following story on how the provincial government of Marinduque is treating the case against Placer Dome/Barrick Gold which, as the Nevada Supreme Court has ruled, should be moved to Canada or Philippines, but with favorable conditions for the Philippine province if moved to Canada. 

The provincial government of Marinduque, notably the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Marinduque through Vice-Governor Romulo Bacorro, Jr. has apparently followed orders to sleep on the case despite strong calls from stakeholders and other government, CSO and religious leaders to act swiftly as expected by the people. 

“WE ARE KILLING EACH OTHER OVER MINING”

Catholic prelates have joined calls by civil society groups to urge the provincial government of Marinduque in the Philippines to pursue a multimillion dollar class suit against a global mining firm over the 1996 Marcopper spill.
Local pressure for the Marinduque government to refile the case mounted after the Nevada state Supreme Court on June 11 threw out the case against the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp, reported the Inquirer.
The Marcopper Mining Disaster occurred on March 24, 1996 on the Philippine island of Marinduque, a province of the Philippines located in the Mimaropa region in Luzon. It remains one of the largest mining disasters in Philippine history. 
A fracture in the drainage tunnel of a large pit containing leftover mine tailings led to a discharge of toxic mine waste into the Makulapnit-Boac river system and caused flash floods in areas along the river. 
One village, Barangay Hinapulan, was buried in six feet of muddy floodwater, causing the displacement of 400 families. Twenty other villages had to be evacuated. Drinking water was contaminated killing fish and freshwater shrimp. Large animals such as cows, pigs and sheep were overcome and killed. The flooding caused the destruction of crops and irrigation channels. Following the disaster, the Boac River was declared unusable. 
In a copy of its 13-page ruling, the US state high court upheld the February 2011 decision of the Nevada district court to dismiss the case for “forum non conveniens,” meaning the United States was a wrong jurisdiction to hear the case.
It said the case “lacks any bona fide connection to this state, adequate alternative fora exist, and the burdens of litigating here outweigh any convenience to the province (Marinduque).”
The US courts believed a judgment “could be more readily enforced against Barrick in Canada than in Nevada” since the company was incorporated and based there.
The Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (Macec) slammed the provincial government’s slow action to pursue the case in Canada.
“It’s been two months (since the Nevada ruling) yet there seems to be no movement at all, not even talks (in the Marinduque government),” said Macec executive director Elizabeth Manggol said.
The Marinduque provincial government filed in October 2005 in the Nevada district court a $100-million class suit against Placer Dome Inc. The Vancouver-based Placer Dome, later absorbed by Barrick Gold, was the parent company of Marcopper Mining Corp. that was responsible for the mine tailing spill on the province tagged the Philippines’ worst mining tragedy.
Barrick Gold offered a $20-million settlement but the Marinduque provincial council in 2014 turned down the amount, which it felt was not enough to compensate the damages to the province.

Boac Cathedral. Photo: LakadPilipinas
The Catholic Church has stepped in, as environmentalist groups lobby for the Marinduque council to pursue the case in Canada.
In an August 10 circular, Boac Bishop Marcelino Antonio M. Maralit Jr. enjoined the faithful in praying for “environmental justice” through the inclusion of two petitions in all Eucharistic celebrations. These intercessory prayers were for Marinduque to be declared a mining-free province and for the provincial government to have enough strength and inspiration in pursuing the case against Marcopper, Placer Dome and Barrick Gold.
Marinduque Vice Gov. Romulo Bacorro Jr. said the province’s executive and legislative bodies had yet to meet with Marinduque’s legal team to finalize its next move regarding the case.
But pursuing the case in a new forum “is not that easy” as it involves “millions of dollars” for the litigation fees, he said.
The Marcopper case comes in the wake of a global investigation into hundreds of the world’s mineral mines which concludes that the legacy of the global mineral boom is social conflict, human rights violations and environmental devastation across Asia, Latin America and Africa.
A new atlas of 600 international mining and oil companies has identified more than 1,500 ongoing conflicts raging over water, land, spills, pollution, ill-health, relocations, waste, land grabs, floods and falling water levels.
The EU-funded report by academics at 23 universities and environmental justice groups in Africa, India and Latin America has identified 142 disputes involving gold mines, 130 at coal mines, 96 at copper mines and 73 at silver mines, with India, Colombia, Nigeria, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and the Philippines having the most. They ranged from longstanding legal disputes to armed conflicts. - Full story on Asian Pacific Post

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