Friday, January 27, 2017

Marinduque environmental disaster circus: Hidden agenda glaring now?

As of today, I have posted 173 articles on the subject of Marcopper. Far from being an expert on this matter, most of these articles (in English and Tagalog), are based on my own research as well as first-hand information gathered from many who are involved in still seeking truth and environmental justice for Marinduque. When burning issues on this subject are being talked about, from those august chambers to the paved streets and rough roads of Marinduque, quite a number of breaking news stories that must be echoed also find their way on this blog.

New threats to the environment and the safety of affected communities resulting from the deterioration of the abandoned siltation dams of Marcopper have developed in recent weeks. I am sharing this article with you hoping it could help bring more awareness to the issues currently happening. 


I would like to cite a quote attributed to Arthur Conan Doyle that may ring true here: "There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."



Toxic seepage flows in various parts of Maguila-guila siltation dam, 
likened to demonic green blood out to infect the living.

Marinduque environmental disaster circus: Hidden agenda glaring now?

What do we know so far about mining-related environmental and health impacts that have hounded us, Marinduquenos, for well over 20 years of loud and endless cries for truth and justice to reign?

Numerous painstaking studies have been undertaken on various subjects related to this dark episode by local geologists, metallurgical and civil engineers, physicists, pharmacologists, social scientists, geochemists and toxicologists connected to various national government institutions. But apparently not content with local minds and expertise, foreign scientists, after the conduct of a preliminary study they themselves undertook in 2000, were commissioned by the Philippine government. P20-million of taxpayers money were spent for this same purpose: study the mining-related environmental and human health issues related to decades of mining in Marinduque, then come up with their recommendations. Read



USGS scientists returned, saw, explored the island for 18 months in 2002 and submitted its final report in 2004. The engineering studies concluded, among others, that: 


"There are instabilities in several mine structures in Marinduque: the four dams which are located at Maguila-guila, Bol River, Upper and Lower Makulapnit..."
"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."


And on and on and on. A critical review of the study was made by the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) composed of topnotch Filipino scientists. Quotes from this review:


"The USGS “study” was very superficial and did not come up with significant primary data that would add and improve on what have already been gathered and already known..."
"The USGS study confirmed many of the information, observations, and recommendations which previous studies, medical reports, laboratory test results, fact-finding mission assessments and testimonies have repeatedly pointed out ."
"The suggested actions redound to a long list of tasks that indicate endless monitoring and detailed further studies."
"There is no evidence that the team exerted efforts to approach the problem from a broad historical and social perspective, but used instead a manifestly corporate-friendly approach." CEC full review here

The final study was not officially disclosed to the very people who were affected and who could potentially suffer from more serious health problems in the near or far future. Private environmental groups and media had to exert own effort to analyze/probe issues of particular interest to them for sharing with the public.


Item: (MACEC) points out as well that before the U.S. team’s recommendations are implemented, these have to be first presented to the people of Marinduque, who, along with local government units, would then decide on which cleanup measures to take... this step remains undone.
“The local government unit is still in the stage of coordination. We’re soliciting assistance on how we can work this out.” (PENRO chief Danilo Querijero, 2008) Read


In short, detailed short-term and long-term solutions based on the study were nowhere found simply because there were none up to the present. 

Impressive millions of dollars floated

There was that widely-known multi-million dollar funding ($12-million put on escrow), for the rehabilitation of the Boac River, where the mining company, environmental agencies and local government units concerned proudly took turns in confirming. Then in 2013, a sudden twist occurred just like in the movies - DENR feigning ignorance about it, the provincial government mum about it, even as its chief legal counsel in the case filed against the mining company in Nevada boldly and deceivingly branded the escrow fund as a “myth built on hope but no less a myth”. Read more about the escrow fund here.


To this day, 15 years after the foreign co-owners fled the scene to escape responsibility, no disclosure on where the money went was ever made by any of the parties concerned or if statements were made separately, they were sure to contradict one another.

In imminent danger

Through the years, DENR consistently claimed it 'regularly inspected' all mining-related structures that according to the studies were in bad shape, issued warnings on the deterioration of at least one of the structures, but apparently, and curiously, not agreeing with the scientific findings that some other structures are "in imminent danger of collapse" (Note: This has been an oft repeated media quote. The USGS study actually stated "potentially imminent failures" of the siltation dams.)

Marcopper's latest denials

Let's cut to the chase. Marcopper, to this very day has held on to the claim that it is not responsible for the environmental destruction and health problems, past and present, or deaths caused by irresponsible mining in Marinduque. As recent as November 2016, this became more evident. GMA's Motorcycle Diaries ni Jay Taruc featured "Lason sa Paraiso" showing acidic blue water from Marcopper's Bol River Dam flowing into a stream in Puting Buhangin. It also documented the same acid mine drainage flowing down Hinapulan from Makulapnit River upstream, and showed interviews with children and parents talking about health-related issues blaming it on the affected river.

Also shown in the said TV-documentary was a Marcopper letter addressed to the show host claiming that "Marcopper's existing dams are not impounding acid water", "water flowing to the Hinapulan creek are draining from mineralized areas" not subjected to Marcopper's mining operations; and that the TV-program should include a "review of the preliminary report rendered by the Team engaged by the Marinduque Provincial Government under the leadership and management of US Geological Survey". That study shows according to the mining company, acid mine drainage (AMD) "cannot be ascribed only to the Marcopper's operation but as a naturally occurring phenomenon for mineralized areas."

The mining company was apparently referring to the USGS 'preliminary report' of 2001, and not to the USGS 'final report' of 2004, mentioned above completely debunking such lies.


Screenshot of Marcopper's response to GMA's Motorcycle Diaries ni Jay Taruc

To this very day, in what may be described as some effort to show semblance of official action, DENR through MGB still finds itself blindly sending 'instructions/advises' to Marcopper to get those problematic siltation dams fixed.

Yet, in certain forums DENR refers to these structures as 'abandoned  Marcopper dams'. One wonders what good would it ever do when the company had clearly ignored all past pleadings from government? Round and round in circles.

A curious question must now be asked: Is the celebrated environmental champion in Sec. Gina Lopez holding this mining company so differently from the way others are being treated? This one company that had been labeled here, there and every relevant forum in the world as the culprit behind the environmental woes in Marinduque wrought by irresponsible mining?


Gina Lopez being interviewed by Jay Taruc. Screenshot from Motorcycle Diaries.

The cryptic-est interview on this circus ever
Lopez: "Ang yabang nila (Marcopper), a. When they can have the gall to ask for a resumption of the mine after doing this? Without fixing this do they really think they can really do anything there?...You know right now if they don't fix it the people will suffer...

"Yung mining company ang dapat mag-rehab. They should fix it. Ang challenge ngayon ay to rehabilitate the dam. It's gonna be really expensive. Up to the hundreds of millions of pesos... Ang problema dito, the mine did the devastation for one whole generation. Hanggang ngayon. It's not good. We will fix it. 

"Now what we do is what should have been done 20 years ago.. is that once you suspend tulungan natin. They can't go out and i-rehabilitate nila yung mines..."

Taruc (Voice-over): "Pero sa pahayag na ipinadala sa amin ng Marcopper Mining Corporation, wala raw nakaimbak na acid water sa kanilang dam. Wala rin daw ano mang tagas mula sa kanilang mga dam papunta sa Hinapulan Creek. Ang tagas daw na dumadaloy sa Hinapulan Creek ay maaaring nanggagaling sa ibang lugar na hindi sakop ng Marcopper Mining Corporation."

Currently the dams

In the news again are the two earthen dams of Marcopper in clear and present danger of causing more suffering to the people - the Maguila-guila Siltation Dam and the Makulapnit Dam/s. An unexpected and more serious 'new threat' as described by MGB-Mimaropa is posed by the Maguila-guila Siltation Dam due to a subsidence that occurred in June last year. Read.

As regards the Makulapnit Dams, water was discovered to be "gushing out" from a busted valve (its existence an unexplained mystery), inside another secret 'old and rotten' tunnel installed in the 1970s, MGB's Roland de Jesus was quoted to have also said that Typhoon Nina may have contributed to its deterioration and he 'doubted its chance to survive a stronger typhoon', Read.

A repeat of the 1996 disaster is in the offing then if that were true as all the dams have been abandoned for two decades, no repairs nor rehabilitation were ever considered. The scientific study will be proven right in its warning about potentially imminent dam failure.

Circus timeline

To refresh memories on this real-time Marinduque circus show, a brief timeline relevant to the dams' potential failure follows. 

Connecting the dots, one might see the diabolical shadow of a hidden agenda behind this endless circus. The singular agenda that may have been nurtured by those who professed grave concern all along. Think about it, only the colors of huge money in their bank accounts could entail massive deception even if it has taken this long to realize: 
It's about the resumption of large-scale mining in Marinduque by reopening the Marcopper mine.

Truth is, talk about this has been going off and on in Marinduque for sometime to the unbelief of many. But this possibility could be, borrowing a term, 'potentially imminent' this time. Now, the circus cum tragi-comedy act:


Taken on January 26, 2017, this photo was released by the Municipality of Boac. It shows acid-generating mine waste flowing into the Lower Makulapnit Dam below. This increases the likehood of 'potentially catastrophic releases of large volumes of mine waste into the Makulapnit River', a problem identified in 2004 in the final report of the USGS Independent Team.
Photo courtesy of LGU Boac


Year 2004: Quoting the USGS 'Independent Study'
6.3.3 Highest priority actions that are needed to ensure public safety and prevent further catastrophic environmental degradation.
The Independent U.S. Team is unanimous in its agreement that the significant engineering and mine structure stability problems identified at the Marcopper Mine Site by the Engineering Team are the greatest priority in need of action.
The potentially imminent failure of any one of the unstable mine structures (such as any of the siltation impoundments) could lead to releases of mine waste and waters that would result in further severe environmental impacts... It is even possible that such failure could endanger the communities downstream along the Mogpog and Makulapnit/Boac river systems.
The most pressing problems at Marcopper that are causing the greatest adverse environmental impacts on the surrounding rivers are:
6.3.1 Summary of Environment Team findings
It is clear that large-scale copper mining on Marinduque has had significant adverse impacts on the environment in several different parts of the island...
Other problems were identified such as: 
1) Acid-rock drainage from the Tapian Pit overflow and from mine waste piles into the Makulapnit rivers, and
2). Erosion of mine waste into the siltation impoundments on the Makulapnit, Bol, and Magila-gila rivers...
Although the lower Makulapnit siltation impoundment is still trapping eroded mine wastes, it appears that, given sufficient time, it will eventually fill completely, allowing mine wastes to then flow unchecked from the south side of the mine site into the Makulapnit River.
Further, the potentially imminent failures (as identified by the Engineering Team) of the Makulapnit, Bol and/or Maguila-guila siltation dams, coupled with the continued large-scale erosion of mine wastes into the siltation impoundments behind the dams, increases the likelihood of potentially catastrophic releases of large volumes of mineralized, acid-generating mine wastes into the Makulapnit, Bol and Magila-gila rivers, similar to the release that occurred in 1993... Read

Year 2006: Declaration of 50-year Large-Scale Mining Moratorium; Discovery of a 'seepage in a tunnel of the Upper Makulapnit Dam'


The first historic initiative undertaken by the (SP) body was the declaration of a 50-year large-scale mining moratorium on Oct. 28, 2006. 
In a privilege speech, environment committee chairperson Melecio Go said: "The engineers of the mining company revealed in a meeting with committee and other officials that there is indeed a seepage in a tunnel of the Upper Makulapnit Dam similar to the seepage of August 1995 which resulted in the infamous Boac River environmental disaster of March 24, 1996..." 
Erosion of mine waste into Makulapnit Siltation Dam.
Screenshot from Motorcycle Diaries

"Gov. Reyes informed the joint session that DENR officials who visited the province on April 3, 2006 confirmed the alarming condition of the tailings dam on top of Marinduque mountains which, in the unlikely event that it will collapse will bring an immense catastrophe to the low-lying towns of Boac and Mogpog. 
"Mogpog Mayor Garcia and his local government unit reiterated for the total decommissioning of all mining structures, especially the tailings dams to ensure that they will not be used for any more mining activities..." Read

Year 2008: An inutile Task Force Marcopper because of 'changing chiefs'; Study not presented to people; LGU still in stage of coordination; Dams 'competent' per MGB


A sub task force that was supposed to study, prioritize, and come up with an action plan based on the 2005 recommendations of a U.S. research team has also been on standby for the last three years, largely because the task force it is under keeps on changing chiefs.
The undersecretary supposed to head Task Force Marcopper is replaced whenever there is a new DENR secretary. Between 2004 and 2007, the DENR has had six different bosses.
The nongovernmental group Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC) points out as well that before the U.S. team’s recommendations are implemented, these have to be first presented to the people of Marinduque, who, along with local government units, would then decide on which cleanup measures to take. MACEC executive secretary Miguel Magalang says this step remains undone.
PENRO chief Danilo Querijero himself says, “The local government unit is still in the stage of coordination. We’re soliciting assistance on how we can work this out.”
View of Upper Makulapnit Dam. 34 million cubic meters of water.

MACEC’s Magalang says that one of the dams in question in Boac has a catchment area of 34 million cubic meters. Boac River can hold only about 11 million cubic meters of material...'
MGB officials, though, say that based on the bureau’s most recent inspection — done just last June 19 (2008) — Marcopper’s mining structures generally do not pose immediate danger. “In general, the dams are competent,” says MGB Regional Director Rolando de Jesus. Read

Year 2014: 4,500 sign petition to check integrity of the dams; MGB initiates 'Hydrology Study' on waters of Boac and Mogpog Rivers (results if any, not disclosed to public).

 Netizens are asking the government to review the structural integrity of the dams and ponds abandoned in Marinduque by the Marcopper Mining Corp. More than 4,500 have signed a petition started by Jonathan Subagan on Change.org...
“Tanggalin po ninyo ang pangamba sa puso ng ating mga mamamayan. Labingwalong (18) taon na po ang nakalipas ng nasira ang Tapian Pit at halos dalawamput-isang (21) taon naman ng bumigay ang Maguila-guila Siltation Dam...." Read.
But not a word from DENR or MGB
The task to consistently monitor the structures and facilities of the mine site has become a special function of the MGB-MIMAROPA.
To strengthen the regular monitoring of Marcopper Mines and consistent with the provisions of Executive Order No. 79 relevant to the rehabilitation of inactive/abandoned mines, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-MIMAROPA commences the Hydrology Study to determine the impact of Marcopper on the surface waters of the Boac and Mogpog Rivers watersheds which is being undertaken by a third party specialist. Read
View from upstream Makulapnit River


Year 2015: MGB admits 'legal and financial issues' but government implements 'all safety measures'


MGB IV-B Regional Director Roland De Jesus, acknowledging the vulnerability of local communities to potential hazards, assured the continuous activities of the MGB to monitor the condition, not only of the Tapian Pit, but all of the MMC structures and facilities.  He admitted MGB’s limitations in providing total resolution to the besetting problems due to restricting legal and financial issues but confirmed, nonetheless, that the national government will exhaust every possible means to implement all safety measures. Read
Continuous lobbying by local stakeholders resulted in the removal by national government in 2007 of Marcopper from government's priority sites for mining projects. Came 2015, Congress moved to declare 8 provinces as mining-free zones but Marinduque, the 'poster child for irresponsible mining past and present' was not one of them. Read     

Year 2016:  Suddenly 'Resume mining', 'mining safe', 'disaster won't happen again', 'there's transparency' - MGB director.


Roland De Jesus, a director of the Mines and Geoscience Bureau in Manila, says mining in the Philippines is safer now. As for Marinduque, he says, it’s not Manila’s responsibility to clean up the mess that a private company left behind. But he offers another solution. “One of the alternatives is to resume mining,” he says.
According to De Jesus, “based on the actual production rate of the company when they suddenly stopped, they still have about 17 years of mine life.” He says that’s only an alternative if a company has the financial and technical capabilities to rehabilitate the damage caused by the previous operator.
De Jesus adds that a disaster like the one in Marinduque won’t happen again because new laws demand accountability for environmental damage. “I am confident we have a good mining law, one of the best in the world. Before, there was a lack of transparency,” says De Jesus. Read

Year 2017: Meanwhile, the worst has loomed for all with naked eyes to see



New threat from Maguila-guila Dam
'New threat' of subsidence on the Maguila-guila Siltation Dam, where formed a "60-meter wide funnel-like depression on the surface of the impoundment area." 
...the condition of subsidence poses more problems as the collapse continues to widen and deepen... Active erosional processes have caused immediate clogging of the drain tunnel and increased sedimentation of the river channel near the drain outlet.  Such events impose serious threats on adjoining structures and areas, most specifically, potential erosion or damage of the disturbed section of the Maguila-guila earth dam, possible breakdown of the drain structures, and brisk siltation and widespread inundation problems at downstream Mogpog River.
So for the Nth time, there goes DENR-MGB again of 'constanty advising' Marcopper:
"With the increasing threat of massive siltation and flooding in the riverine environment of Mogpog, MGB-MIMAROPA is constantly advising Marcopper Mining Corporation (MMC) to address the problems regarding subsidence and siltation in the Maguila-guila Siltation Dam. MMC was also instructed to comply with the action plans and recommendations prepared by the monitoring team." Read
Water gushing inside Makulapnit tunnel

 Gushing threat from Makulapnit Tunnel 
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) detected leaks in one of the abandoned dams of Marcopper Mining Corp., raising anew public concerns over the integrity of the decades-old mining facility in Marinduque province.
Roland de Jesus, director of the MGB in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) region, said an eight-member team sent to the area found leaks in a diversion tunnel of Marcopper’s Makulapnit dam in Barangay Hinapulan in the capital town of Boac.
De Jesus said the MGB has yet to determine the gravity of the situation. He said “water is gushing” out of the old and rotten tunnel that was installed when the mining company started its operations in 1970s.
De Jesus said heavy rain dumped by Typhoon “Nina” (international name: Nock-Ten) in December may have contributed to the tunnel’s deterioration.
He doubted its chance to survive a stronger typhoon, which will bring heavier rainfall or similar to the amount of rain dumped by Tropical Storm “Ondoy” (international name: Ketsana) in Metro Manila in 2009.
Inside the 'old and rotten' tunnel

Luna Manrique, Boac municipal planning officer, said members of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) patrolling the area on Jan. 18 noticed the cracks in the concrete tunnel.
Manrique, in a letter to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said water leakage “had significantly increased” from the time he observed it in October 2013. Read


Tama na po! Stop this circus!

To All Concerned:  Please stop the show! For once, more than two decades of this glaring circus of lies and deception cum tragi-comic act must come to an end.

The continuing struggle of the people of Marinduque under six presidents from Marcos to Aquino should be more than enough for our incessant cries and troubles to be heard. 

Now the government, our national government under President Rodrigo R. Duterte, we implore, to finally heed us, save us from this pit.

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