Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rep, Velasco and DENR meet on Marinduque plans; Bol River blues

Rep. Velasco and DENR talks


Cong. Velasco with DENR officials during preliminary talks August 18.

Very recently, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco posted in his Facebook page that he had a working lunch with DENR officials to discuss, among others, the Marcopper situation in the province, "about the problem with the structure of the dams and monitoring systems to be in place and also the supposed leak in the river". He adds that these are "preliminary talks with the DENR and would be meeting with the DENR secretary soonest”.

I suppose that the "supposed leak in the river" has to do with several inspections made by the municipal planning and development coordinator of the municipal government of Boac, Engr. Luna "Pongkoy" Manrique, many photos of which have also been published here along with Luna's observations/remarks.

I am, honestly, very wary of DENR 'monitoring'. We have a well-respected crusader of a lady, yes, Sec. Gina Lopez, familiar to many environmental advocates in this province. Surely she is one lady also very familiar with the historic Marinduque issues, both environmental and legal, and knows how and why this island-province has become "the poster child for irresponsible mining, past and present".

But the unrealiability of DENR or MGB inspections and monitoring reports during the past decade, at least, stems from the fact that such reports are not properly disclosed to the public. A quick look at two of such reports (here and here), that have surfaced in the Internet seems only to clearly show unwillingness to tie-up such official inspections with the serious and painstaking scientific findings, observations and recommendations made separately by various local scientists and a foreign 'independent' team (USGS). 

What if the same shuffled or reshuffled agency people on the ground are still running the show, those who have become corrupted by what had hounded this Marcopper problem over decades - plain treachery and dictated deception when it pertains to ongoing legal cases/issues, and non-disclosure of reports. be they serious ones or 'rubber-stamp' ones, when the topic is about health and safety issues?

Well, good luck to our beloved Marinduque Congressman!


On top is the San Antonio Pit, in the middle is the Bol River Dam, below is the Tapian Pit. Bol River runs from north to south converging with Makulapnit River, finally to Boac River. Even Google maps don't lie about the awful degradation of that mine site above our heads.

But going back to the dam structures and "supposed leak in the river" problems, my posts on Engr. Luna's discovery and the discovery by our local boys of that "blue river" near Brgy. Puting Buhangin (they simply refer to it as "ilog sa Puting Buhangin" or others calling it "sapa sa Puting Buhangin", because no native Boakeno seems to have known about any "Bol River sa Boac", and thus escaped the rightfully needed attention for years),  the Engineer points to Bol River Dam as source of the AMD. 

Then new maps evidently pinpoint the Bol River which is really one and the same as the native Boakeno's 'Puting Buhangin River'.

To contain this confusion, I find it apt to focus more on Bol River Dam/Bol River, and was able to dig up even more pertinent data from several sources, collated below. Maybe the new DENR wouldn't mind at all being informed also about something that had escaped everyone's attention?

After all, we Marinduquenos are quite used to being exploited no end by DENR. Like it would promise to take action on things they couldn't possibly do then, even announcing before the world what those options were. Probably believing that people forget what they say anyway or don't take them serously.


Part of what had appeared in a DENR powerpoint presentation, Responsible Mining for Sustainable Development, under the section, Implementing Responsible Mining in the Philippines. Presented in various forums pero plain 'wish ko lang' pala.

Bol River blues: No room for denials this time please

Unchecked, uncontrolled discharge of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD, also known as Acid Rock Drainage), from the Marcopper mine site accumulated over time poses significant environmental risk on downstream rivers. In addition, adverse effects from one or more toxic heavy metals are bound to occur in people residing in areas where such uncontrolled discharge are taking place and where there are mine tailings nearby.

Turns out through further research that numerous studies have already been undertaken by scientists in agreement with these scientific facts.

Turns out also that local scientists have been critical of the costly 'independent' study, earlier posted here, on some major questions. For this reason, this special post will just underline conclusions these scientists, both local and foreign, were in agreement with and on findings they have already supported - focusing specifically on the AMD contamination of Bol River flowing into Boac.

More serious, AMD from mine site far exceeds 1996 damage

We know that there are extensive deposits buried in the Makulapnit and Boac riverbeds and lying exposed on the river banks. However, it may come as a shock that more serious than the environmental damage caused by the 1996 tailings spill is the ongoing acid mine drainage emanating from the mine site. The experts had said so in no uncertain terms.



Part of their official findings are that:

- The environmental damage caused by these (1996 mine spill), is far exceeded by the acid rock drainage emanating from the Marcopper site.

- There is acid rock drainage from the Tapian Pit overflow and from the mine waste piles into the Makulapnit, Bol, and Maguila-guila rivers.

- There is continuing erosion of mine wastes into the siltation impoundments on the Makulapnit, Bol and Maguila-guila Rivers. 

The Tapian Pit-Bol River connection

Mt. Tapian is a prominent peak in the central part of Marinduque with an elevation of 698 meters above mean sea level and is the site of the copper deposit in the rugged, precipitous and hilly sections west of this mountain.

The main drainage system in the mine site, the Bol and Maculapnit rivers, flow westward. All streams empty into the Boac River which is the master drainage in the province.

So what have they already found out about our main subject, the Bol River?

The Bol River Reservoir which receives surface and possibly ground waters from the Tapian pit and other waste dumps shows a green tint, suggesting elevated levels of copper (Plumlee et al. 2000).



Sediments are also flowing from the northern San Antonio Pit dumps directly into Bol River as the above USGS photos clearly show, captioned:  A). Acidic, copper rich puddles form on waste dumps after rains. B). The deep green color of the Bol River Reservoir waters indicate high copper content.

The USGS second study in 2004 confirmed that fluctuating or rapidly rising water levels may compromise the stability of the Tapian pit east highwall. The only drainage for Tapian pit, which is 310 Tunnel, (directed to the Bol River), is inadequate for emergency drainage should water levels rise during typhoons, according to the said study.

Continuous discharge affecting people's health, ecosystems

Toxic wastes are continuously being discharged through sedimentation at erosion, and are contaminating the soils, water ways, air and are affecting people’s health, livelihood, and various ecosystems.  

• Benthic macro invertebrates are disappearing or have disappeared in the Mogpog and Bol rivers.

What was considered warranted more than 10 years ago as short-term solution then?

• Installation of weirs at the outlet portal of the diversion tunnel of the Bol River Dam and clearing-out of obstructions to the spillway.

This Tapian Pit-Bol River direct connection is further confirmed very briefly in an MGB monitoring report (2006):

Tunnel 310: Water is flowing freely from the Tapian pit towards Bol River and finally to Boac River, preventing the build-up of water at this pit. (MGB October 2006)


People, just be aware of this mysterious Tapian Pit Tunnel 310 towards Bol River!

Latest study on Bol River heavy metal contamination

The connection between these two bodies of water could also be found in a study as recent as two years ago published in the Philippine Science Letters (November 2014), that confirmed thus:

"The pH of and the concentrations of heavy metals in Bol River Reservoir and Tapian Pit are shown in Table 9. It is evident that the water samples from these sources were acidic and were contaminated with elevated levels of copper. In addition, the samples also contained iron and zinc in significant concentrations."



Many concerned Marinduquenos would be very happy then to see specific action being undertaken by the new DENR on the Bol River problem, as a prelude to DENR Secretary Gina Lopez and the entire department addressing the herculean task of responding to all Marcopper-related issues, past and present.

You know, start the Bol rolling, the Bol is in your court...


Just now. Photo from Engr. Luna Manrique

Meanwhile, the rest of Cong. Velasco's list discussed during preliminary talks with DENR officials were as follows:

1. Setting up of marine reserves;
2. Planting of a certain species of mangrove that attracts fireflies to replicate the firefly tours in Iwahig, Palawan and in Donsol, Sorsogon;
3. Establishment of a bamboo park;
4. Solution to the Marcopper road going up to District 6 of Sta. Cruz;
5. Setting up of dive sites around the province;
6. Discussed about the problem with the structure of the dam and monitoring systems to be in place and also the supposed leak in the river, and;
7. Development of Calancan Bay into ecotourism area.

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Susong Dalaga Hill
Susong Dalaga Hill from Bagtasan isthmus

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