In historic decision, court awards damages to Marcopper survivors
In a landmark decision decades in the making, a local court in Marinduque has ruled in favor of at least thirty plaintiffs against the Marcopper Mining Corporation, for a mine spill that wreaked havoc on the community on December 3, 1993. It is one of the worst mining disasters to hit the country.
In a decision dated 16 May 2022, Judge Emmanuel Recalde of Branch 38 of the Marinduque Regional Trial Court granted 200,000 pesos in temperate damages and 100,000 pesos in moral damages to each of at least thirty plaintiffs in the case filed in 2001. Another one million pesos as exemplary damages was awarded to all the plaintiffs. The temperate damages had been paid per a memorandum agreement dated 16 July 1994.
“This is a victory for the plaintiffs who had waited two decades for justice as much as it is for the other plaintiffs who had unfortunately died in the course of this case. We celebrate this ruling and thank Judge Emmanuel Recalde for taking up cudgels for the survivors and the environment,” said Elizabeth Manggol of the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC).
“Large-scale mining projects present inevitable damage. The Marcopper disaster is a warning we should heed with the ongoing and planned large-scale projects in the country. The existing Mining Act is problematic. The alternative minerals management bill (AMMB) is urgently needed to safeguard the environment from mining and prevent disasters like this,” said Atty. E.M. Taqueban, executive director of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC). LRC, a non-governmental organization that provides free legal services to communities entangled in resource rights issues, served as the legal counsel of the plaintiffs.
“This emblematic case should serve as a warning for communities who wish to embrace mining. Litigating mining-related cases like this celebrated case is a slow march to justice. Communities must think their decisions through for the impact of the environment can be irreversible. In the case of Marinduque, the river affected by the spill is all but dead. With this ruling, Judge Recalde has shown that environmental cases do have a fighting chance in our judicial system,” said Atty. Ryan Roset, direct legal services coordinator of LRC.
On December 6, 1993, parts of the structure of the Maguila-guila tailings dam owned by Marcopper Mining Corporation broke, flooding the Mogpog River with toxic waste.It released an overwhelming amount of silted water that submerged and destroyed properties and sources of livelihood, and exposed the people of Marinduque to serious health risks.