For keeping radioactive materials of its old mining facility in Marinduque, Marcopper Mining Corp. can face sanctions even if its license was already expired.
This was the assessment of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) following the recent discovery by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) against the mining corporation for storing radium-226 and cesium-137 although its license was expired on June 30, 2017.
In 1996 Marcopper was responsible for the spill of over 1.6 million cubic meters of mine tailings into the Boac River, considered the worst mining disaster in the country. The company has been seeking to reopen its operations in Marinduque and its appeal is now pending in Malacañang.
According to the PNRI, the company can be penalized with regulatory sanctions should it fail to have its license renewed.
Under the Department of Science and Technology, PNRI is the sole government agency mandated to advance and regulate safe and peaceful applications of nuclear science in the Philippines. It also regulates the use of radioactive materials in industry, medicine, academe, research and other applications.
The radioactive materials at the Marcopper site, which has been abandoned since the 1996 spill, were disclosed by the MGB during a committee hearing by the provincial board last week. Gov. Presbitero Velasco Jr. had ordered an inspection of Marcopper’s dams and remaining structures after a recent strong typhoon hit the island.
(Marcopper denial – In a denial statement, Marcopper officials said the MGB may have been misinformed regarding the real status at their site. The industrial chemicals referred to are actually being used commonly for mineral processing, and aren’t toxic or radioactive.)