Saturday, August 6, 2016

Yes, acid mine drainage is flowing freely into the Boac River now; Please keep off those other blue rivers

"Leaving the mine site without cleaning up piles of mining waste and polluted sediments, and without taking appropriate measures to stop the flow of acid mine drainage from the basins and ditches left behind is simply unacceptable to the people of Boac. Until the ongoing pollution at the MARCOPPER Mine site is adequately addressed, it continues to pose a threat to water quality, and the communities and wildlife in the area that depend on clean water." - Luna "Pongkoy" Manrique, MPDO of Boac

This picture was taken last March 2015 when Manrique (in photo) joined the Army Patrol Operations
[an 8 hour walk) from Barangay Hinapulan and back.
Acid mine drainage photos by Pongkoy Manrique

In August 1995, residents near the mines were alarmed, not by an earthquake but by seepage from the drainage tunnel connected to the Tapian pit. The company then drilled a series of holes into the tunnel to plug it. Marcopper assured the municipal authorities that remedial measures they had taken had solved the problem. The people's apprehension remained.

On March 17 an earthquake that registered 3.2 on the Richter Scale was felt on the island. Seven days later, on March 24, 1996, in what was considered one of the harshest man-made environmental disaster, news came. After more than two sleepy decades, the heavily silted yet revivified Boac River was dealt a fatal blow. More dramatic than its previous episode it was, international media were appalled.


Up the river

The spillage of mine tailings from the Tapian Pit in the millions of tonnes through the very same drainage tunnel that had once killed it, was great for TV - the concrete sealing of the tunnel that had given hope to the river was flawed and eventually burst this time.

And the litany of concerned voices from government officials, politicians, the multi-stakeholders, environmentalists, parishioners, scientific experts and the tri-media reverberated in the small municipality and beyond. The people of Mogpog, too, had the opportunity to air their similar plight as far as the Mogpog River was concerned. This highlighted the common history of the two gentle rivers.


AMD flowing down into the Boac river

Noise about this episode intensified and continued for a long time, The mining company was cursed and debates reached the halls of the Philippine Senate and Congress. Five presidents have since been installed into power, yet river rehabilitation issues and the disposal of tailings deposited on the river is still unresolved today.

But DU30 has zeroed in on this one based on recent remarks about Marcopper's failure to clean up its mess.

We cannot await natural forces to drive all the tailings away into the sea and into oblivion. The threats have become so glaring now.

Now it's 2016

Now 2016, or 20 years after all these, reports about the continued pollution of the Boac River persist. In a post dated August 5, 2016, Engr. Luna "Pongkoy" Manrique, Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator of the Municipality of Boac reports:
"Abandoned MARCOPPER Mine Site continues to pollute the Boac River
"Leaving the mine site without cleaning up piles of mining waste and polluted sediments, and without taking appropriate measures to stop the flow of acid mine drainage from the basins and ditches left behind is simply unacceptable to the people of Boac. Until the ongoing pollution at the MARCOPPER Mine site is adequately addressed, it continues to pose a threat to water quality, and the communities and wildlife in the area that depend on clean water."

$70-million for sealing tunnel, building levees, dredging

Yet Placer Dome, before divesting itself of its Marcopper shares in 1997, and before being bought by Barrick Gold Corporation in 2006, claimed to have spent some $70 million in sealing "for the ages" the Tapian Pit drainage tunnel, building levees on the Boac riverbank, and dredging a channel at the mouth of the river. The said amount, according to a PCIJ report, also covered the construction of new homes, roads, and airlifting of food and other supplies to the devastated area.


Below are more eye-opening, enlightening photos from Manrique's other inspections

Boac's MPDC, Engr. Luna Manrique writes on Facebook:
Marcopper did not allow us to enter their premises to inspect the STABILITY of the Makulapnit Dam, so we chose the Hard Way, a 3 hours hike and climb along Jinapulan River. Escorted by Army Special Forces and CAFGUs we walk right into the tunnel and climb the Makulapnit Dam.
As fate would have it, Manrique and his armed escorts saw with their own eyes the acidic blue water flowing down from Marcopper's Bol River Dam

... and clear water from the Makulapnit Dam (Manrique pointing)

... the waters merge on their way to Jinapulan River down below that flows into the Boac River and finally into the Tablas Strait, the ultimate sink.

What is Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) again?

From Internet sources we again find that acidic discharges from active or abandoned mines are called acid mine drainage, or AMD.

Metal mines may generate highly acidic discharges where the ore is a sulfide mineral or is associated with pyrite. In these cases the predominant metal ion may not be iron but rather zinc, copper, or nickel. The most commonly mined ore of copper, chalcopyrite, is itself a copper-iron-sulfide and occurs with a range of other sulfides. Thus, copper mines are often major culprits of acid mine drainage.

At some mines, acidic drainage is detected within 2–5 years after mining begins, whereas at other mines, it is not detected for several decades. Acidic drainage may be generated for decades or centuries after it is first detected. For this reason, acid mine drainage is considered a serious long-term environmental problem associated with mining.

Mogpog River is the color of copper. But it may just be possible that one day the Boac River may just turn blue, right? A toxic tourist attraction by then?

Below is one such river - the Red River in New Mexico that turned blue.


"Then came the most glaring sign of industrial arrogance. In the early 1980s, the Red River began to turn a cloudy blue, a symptom of acid drainage and high metal content" (The mine that turned the Red River blue)

Blue rivers in Marinduque

Come to think of it, we do not have to go that far now. Based on Manrique's findings, Bol River in Sta. Cruz is already blue with AMD. 

But not far from the mine site is another beautiful blue river hidden somewhere in Puting Buhangin, discovered last summer by unsuspecting, young, adventuresome Marinduquenos who apparently tried its inviting, cool waters

I must admit that after seeing these pictures posted on FB by John Oliver Hermosa, I was so intrigued that I had planned to contact another friend living in the adjacent barangay so he could take me there, too. This other friend also published photos showing him and friends having fun swimming in this same blue river.

Blue river in Puting Buhangin. Photo posted on FB by John Oliver Hermosa
Now we know it's dangerous!
Spread the word and keep off those blue rivers.
They're hazardous to your health!

More photos of the blue river courtesy of John Oliver Hermosa


Some Facebook comments to the above photo:

"Ang busilak ng tubig, ganda. Malayo ba an lalakarin dito."
"Saan po ito sa puting buhangin? Tlagang ganyan ang color ng place or enhanced na po?"
"napkaganda ng probinsya ntn dapat ipromote ang tourismo... para umunlad. ang probinsya"
"Uu Ganda nga ...tga Marinduque din Kame e ...Kaso Bata q nung huling punta. Ko Jan:)"
"wow"

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