Philippines - Spill of Copper Mine Waste Situation Report No.1

Report
from UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 24 Apr 1996
Ref: DHAGVA - 96/0107
IN THE SOUTH-CENTRAL PHILIPPINES, A LARGE OPEN PIT COPPER MINE IS BEING OPERATED ON MARINDUQUE ISLAND. THE MINE IS PRODUCING ABOUT 30,000 TONS OF COPPER ORE PER DAY. IN LATE-MARCH 1996, A MASSIVE FLOW OF MINE WASTE (TAILINGS) STARTED ESCAPING FROM A DRAINAGE TUNNEL INTO THE ENVIRONMENT. THE TOTAL SEEPAGE AMOUNTED TO APPROXIMATELY 2,4 MILLION TONS OF MINE TAILINGS.

ACCORDING TO THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL AUTHORITIES, THE MAKULAPNIT AND CONSEQUENTLY BOAC RIVERS HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY WASTES DOWNSTREAM TO THE SEA. THE SILT AND COLLOIDAL COMPONENTS OF DISCHARGE HAVE REACHED THE COASTAL AREA.

APPROXIMATELY 6 TO 10 HECTARES OF CROPLAND HAVE BEEN COVERED WITH TAILINGS.

AS REPORTED BY THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL AUTHORITIES, A TOTAL OF SOME 800 FAMILIES CONSISTING OF ABOUT 2,000 PERSONS HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY THIS DISASTER.

THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT IMMEDIATELY RESPONDED TO THIS EMERGENCY. SOME FAMILIES HAVE BEEN EVACUATED. MEDICINES AND FOOD SUPPLIES HAVE BEEN AIRLIFTED TO AFFECTED AREAS. CONTINUOUS RELIEF OPERATIONS HAVE BEEN UNDERTAKEN BY THE PROVINCIAL DISASTER COORDINATING COUNCIL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNITS WITH ASSISTANCE FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARE AND DEVELOPMENT.

SAMPLES OF THE TAILINGS HAVE BEEN COLLECTED BY THE MINES AND GEOSCIENCES BUREAU AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT BUREAU OF THE PHILIPPINE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES TO DETERMINE THE WASTES' TOXICITY TO HUMAN BEINGS AND LIVESTOCK.

MINING OPERATIONS HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED. WHILE ATTENDING TO THE CAUSE AND REMEDIAL MEASURES TO STOP THE FLOW, THE COMPANY RESPONSIBLE FOR MINING OPERATIONS IS ALSO ATTENDING TO ITS AFFECTS DOWNSTREAM IN THE AFFECTED AREAS, IN COORDINATION WITH THE MUNICIPAL AND PROVINCIAL DISASTER COORDINATING COUNCILS.

THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT HAS REQUESTED, THROUGH THE UNDP RESIDENT REPRESENTATIVE IN MANILA, DHA AND UNEP TO DISPATCH AN UN EXPERT ASSESSMENT MISSION FOR AN INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF THIS SITUATION. THE JOINT UNEP/DHA ENVIRONMENT UNIT IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ORGANIZING AN IMPARTIAL ASSESSMENT MISSION WHICH BRINGS TOGETHER RELEVANT NATIONALLY-NOMINATED EXPERTS TO REVIEW THE SITUATION REGARDING THIS SPILL. THIS MISSION IS BEING ARRANGED IN CLOSE COOPERATION WITH PHILIPPINE AUTHORITIES, UNEP HEADQUARTERS AND UNDP OFFICE IN MANILA. THE MISSION, UNDER UNEP AND DHA AUSPICES WOULD COMPRISE FIELD VISITS TO THE ACCIDENT SITE, SUPPLEMENTED BY MEETINGS WITH RELEVANT NATIONAL AUTHORITIES. THE UN MULTINATIONAL TEAM CONSISTS OF 6 EXPERTS FROM DIFFERENT COUNTRIES AND ORGANIZATIONS, LED BY UNEP SENIOR STAFF MEMBER. IT WILL GO TO THE ACCIDENT SITE IN LATE-APRIL - EARLY MAY.

THE MAIN WORK OF THIS MISSION WOULD BE TO ASSESS THE SITUATION ON SITE AND MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS ON MEASURES TO BE TAKEN WITH REGARD TO THE CONSEQUENCES OF THIS ACCIDENT. THE UN TEAM WILL CARRY OUT AN EXPERT EXAMINATION OF THE SITE OF THE SPILL, AND CONDUCT AN INDEPENDENT ASSESSMENT ON THE IMPACT OF MINE TAILINGS ON BIOTA, ECOSYSTEMS AND HUMAN BEINGS. THE ASSESSMENT WILL INCLUDE SAMPLING. A COMPREHENSIVE ANALYSIS OF SAMPLES WILL BE CONDUCTED IN GENEVA.

THIS UN MISSION WILL COLLABORATE CLOSELY WITH RELEVANT PHILIPPINE AUTHORITIES, NATIONAL EXPERTS, PRIVATE COMPANIES INVOLVED, AND THE UNDP OFFICE IN MANILA.

TELEPHONE NO. +41-22-917.1234
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY ONLY: TEL NO. +41-22-917.2010

DESK OFFICER: MR. V. SAKHAROV, DIRECT TEL NO. +41-22-917.1142
PRESS TO CONTACT: MS. M. MOULIN-ACEVEDO, DIRECT TEL NO. +41-22-917.2856

TELEX 4142442 DHA CH
FAX: +41-22-917.0023
E-MAIL: DHAGVA AT DHA.UNICC.ORG