MARINDUQUE, PHILIPPINES—The Philippines has suffered numerous disasters from its mining industry over the decades, creating a legacy of health problems that continue to the present day. Now there is a proposal to reopen one foreign-owned mine with a checkered history, and the backlash from activists who are trying to stop it.
When a typhoon or heavy rain hits Marinduque island, many residents along the Mogpog River are evacuated to higher ground.
That is because the Philippine government says an upstream dam that holds back toxic waste from an abandoned copper mine is deteriorating and could overflow or burst, just like it did in 1993.
When that happened, the river was silted over with heavy metals and other debris, or tailings, from the mine. Farmer George Hayno, 53, lives alongside a branch of the Mogpog, and he said the polluted river cost him his right foot.
He said he used to walk back and forth across the river. In 2012 he noticed a cut on his foot that would not heal. A doctor determined it was infected with arsenic and needed to be amputated.
Another leak at the Marcopper mine of millions of tons of tailings in 1996, led to the pullout of its Canadian operator, ending three decades of mining on the island.
Compensation for the environmental clean up was never received, say national and local government officials.
Adeline Angeles, a member of the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns and a provincial legislator, said mining never delivered the wealth that it promised.
“After decades of mining, Marinduque is one of the poorest provinces in the entire archipelago,” said Angeles. “At the same time our waters are silted, the rivers cannot be used for irrigation and our farmers are poorer.”
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