Marcopper Mining Corp. extracted copper on Marinduque Island from 1969 until March 1996. The company is co-owned and managed by Placer Dome. The problem began when Marcopper disposed of its waste on land, dumping its mine tailings in the abandoned Tapian pit. While the company plugged leaks in the pit, the pit ultimately collapsed, causing one of the largest mining disasters in the Philippines. The release of toxic mine waste resulted in environmental issues and health concerns for the people of Marinduque, specially those who live along Boac River.
An on-going concern
Up until now, as reported in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (January 25, 2017), the Mines and Geosciences Bureau detects leaks in one of the abandoned dams of Marcopper, raising anew public concerns over the decades-old mining issue in Marinduque.
The Philippine Mining Act of 1995, also known as the Republic Act No. 7942, is the governing law that regulates mineral resources development in the country. One of the primary objectives of this act is to revitalize the ailing Philippine mining industry by providing fiscal reforms and incentives and maintaining the viable inventory of minerals to sustain the industry. Responsible for implementing this act is the government agency Mines and Geosciences Bureau, which is under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The case looked into the response of the Philippine government toward recovery measures for the community and the environment following the mining incident and after Marcopper and Barrick closed down all mines and ceased its 30-year operation of extracting copper in the country. And the question is: how can the Philippine government prevent environmental tragedies like the Marcopper mining disaster from recurring while encouraging capital investments in the country?
Always the underdog
Marcopper case is an issue on environment and public health wherein the general public is always the underdog. The case presented a clear existence of violation yet after decades was not yet resolved nor given priority on how to avoid such incident in the future.
The government that should have been representing its people seems to neglect its responsibility on covering the welfare of its territory and the populaces; corruption appears rampant and personal agenda took precedence over national interest. The Philippine Mining act remain as it is, giving way on taking advantage on the weakness on most of the provisions.
Go beyond profits
The case awakens humanity on seeing other people suffering and kindles our love for nature. That a business should not bypass the well-being of the community where the business operates, that beyond profit, factors on environmental concern and sustainability should take into consideration. Ultimately, we will definitely go back to nature—the ecosystem in which we live provides natural services for humans and all other species that are essential to our health, quality of life and survival.
And lastly, I believe that this case is a call to our government in implementing a strict law relating to exploitation of our natural resources. That the likes of responsible mining can exist; that we have the responsibility to the future generations to provide a better place to live. We must realize that nature is not ours to own but rather to care for to ensure that everyone benefits.
And in taking care of nature, we can all enjoy the advantages the environment bestows while paying our respect to Mother Earth.
The author is an MBA student at the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. This essay is part of a journal she kept in fulfillment of the requirements of the course, Lasallian Business Leadership with Corporate Social Responsibility and Ethics. Visit her blog at https://lstabrigida.tumblr.com/
The views expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.