DENR moves to rehab rivers ruined by Marcopper mining disaster
ENVIRONMENT Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has approved an initial P5-million funding for the construction of a 90-meter wide gabion dam across the Mogpog River in Marinduque province as part of the government’s rehabilitation efforts in water bodies devastated by the Marcopper mines.
The dam will be built downstream of the Maguila-guila Creek to prevent further siltation in its basin.
In a statement, Regional Director Roland de Jesus of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB) in the Mimaropa region said the amount will cover the first phase of the project—conduct of a feasibility study, technical data gathering, design and planning for the dam’s construction.
“The result of the first phase will yield crucial information on the geological, geotechnical and hydraulic analysis of the Maguila-guila Creek, which will determine the design of the structure,” de Jesus said.
“The second phase or the implementation of construction stage may vary depending on the result of the first phase of the project,” he added.
Cimatu earlier vowed to restore two rivers, including Mogpog , that were devastated by the worst mining disasters in Philippine history—the Marcopper mining disasters in 1993 and 1996. Marcopper mine is one of the so-called legacy mines—those abandoned by mining companies after tragic mining disasters or upon reaching the end of the life of the mine before the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
While guesting at the recent 100th anniversary of Marinduque province upon the invitation of local officials led by Gov. Presbitero Velasco Jr. and his son, Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, Cimatu bared that a plan to restore all the rivers in the Philippines, including the Boac and Mogpog rivers using nongovernment resources will soon be implemented by the agency.
He said it is high time that the government lead the massive cleanup and rehabilitation of the Boac and Mogpog rivers as people continue to suffer from the effects of the catastrophic tailings spills from the site of Marcopper Mining Corp. in 1993 and 1996.
“The environmental damages and unresolved issues brought about by the Marcopper mining operation in Marinduque for several decades now must be put to an end,” Cimatu said.
In March 1996, a fracture in the drainage tunnel of Marcopper’s Taipan pit spilled more than 1.6 million cubic meters of toxic mine tailings, flooding villages and poisoning the Boac River.
Three years before that, the firm’s Maguila-guila siltation dam also burst, flooding the town of Mogpog, where two children drowned in the mine waste. It practically killed the Mogpog River with its toxic mine tailings.
Marcopper, which started its copper mining operations in the province in 1969, had been dumping mine waste into the Calancan Bay, destroying its corals and seagrasses.
Cimatu said he will immediately issue a department administrative order (DAO) once the Marinduque provincial government submits a formal request to place the Boac and Mogpog rivers under rehabilitation.
The planned river rehabilitation, he said, would include the dredging of the two rivers by a private contractor at no cost to the government.
Cimatu said the private contractor must shoulder all the expenses of the dredging operation in exchange for whatever minerals it may recover, provided the contractor pays the corresponding 4-percent excise tax.
So far, Cimatu has issued four DAOs in relation to the restoration of silted rivers through dredging, based on the separate requests of the provincial governments of Zambales, Oriental Mindoro and Negros Occidental.
The DAOs were pursuant to Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1, Series of 2019, issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and Department of Transportation.
The joint circular seeks to protect and restore to their natural state and water flow the heavily silted river channels in the country.
Image grabbed from: Philippine Star