Firm offers Marinduque $20M for PH’s worst mining disaster
SAN PEDRO, Laguna, Philippines—After nearly a decade of battling it out in a United States state court, the province of Marinduque has come close to signing a deal worth $20 million with the mining company that bought the firm being held responsible for unleashing toxic wastes into Marinduque’s Boac River in a case considered to be the country’s worst mining disaster.
The compensation offer of $20 million, however, is way below the $100-million claim for damages that the Marinduque government is demanding from Barrick in a 2006 lawsuit.
Barrick is the global gold-mining firm that purchased Placer Dome Inc., the former parent company of Marcopper Mining Corp. that shut down operations following the mine tailing spill.
Eleuterio Raza, Marinduque provincial administrator, confirmed the offer in a phone interview on Tuesday.
The amount, however, would further be reduced to $13.5 million after litigation expenses had been paid.
“These are crumbs,” said Raza, “but we are being pushed to the wall.”
Raza said the province initially declined the offer. “But we were told that Barrick is losing billions due to the downturn of the mining industry globally,” he said.
He said the provincial government is afraid that Barrick might get absorbed by another company again and not taking the offer would leave the provincial government back to square one.
American lawyer Walter “Skip” Scott, lead counsel of the Marinduque government, confirmed that his meetings over the past two weeks with Marinduque officials and nongovernment stakeholders in Boac were meant to finalize the deal.
“Yes, you can say that we are close to a potential settlement,” Scott said in a phone interview on Monday evening, although he declined to comment on its details, despite Raza’s statements.
He said the deal framework on the table, from the side of the Philippines, involved Philippine legal experts Fr. Joaquin Bernas and Sedfrey Candelaria from Ateneo, environmental lawyer Tony Oposa, retired Justice Josue Bellosillo, former Philippine Ambassador to the World Trade Organization Manuel Teehankee and professors Harry Roque and Ruben Balane.
Raza said the province “conditionally agrees” to take Barrick’s offer once certain provisions in the settlement are revised. One of those, he said, is a clause stating that Placer Dome never operated on the island.
“That’s something difficult for us to accept. It’s common knowledge that Placer Dome was a managing partner of Marcopper,” Raza said.
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