Barrick agrees to pay $20 million for mining disaster
Settlement falls way below original claim of $100 million
After nearly a decade of battling it out in a United States court, the province of Marinduque, in the Philippines, has nearly reached a settlement of $20 million between the Marinduque provincial government and the gold mining firm Barrick.
The claim will settle a dispute stemming from a toxic mine tailing disaster on the island of Marinduque in 1996 when millions of tonnes of mine waste leaked into the 26-km long Boac River, in what came to be known as the “Marcopper Mining Disaster”.
At the time the mine was operated by the now defunct Marcopper Mining Corp, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based company Placer Dome, which was taken over by Barrick in 2006.
The compensation of $20 million, however, was below the $100 million claim for damages which the Marinduque government has been demanding from Barrick. The amount is likely to be further reduced to around $13.5 million after litigation expenses have been paid.
Eleuterio Raza, Marinduque provincial administrator, stated that "these are crumbs, 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 the provincial government was afraid that Barrick might get absorbed by another company and not taking the offer would put the provincial government back to square one.
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.
The provincial government holds Placer Dome responsible for decades of destructive mining and seeks remuneration for: cleaning up and rehabilitating polluted rivers, lands and coasts; compensation for loss of property and livelihoods; health problems resulting from mine pollution in the past and future; making good deteriorating mine structures which posed an imminent threat to downstream communities and environments.
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