Marcopper Placer Dome Mining Disaster, Marinduque Island, Philippines

Flooded villages, toxic rivers, ill residents, children dying: The 1996 Marcopper Placer Dome mining disaster remains one of the largest environmental disasters in Philippine history. The fight for justice still goes on.


The first operations for the Marcopper mine date back to 1956, when the company Placer Dome Limited became active in the area by undertaking extensive geological mapping and drilling. Mining operations started in 1969 through the exploration of the Mt. Tapian ore deposit, containing copper concentrate, as well as gold and silver. At that time, the mine was co-owned by Placer Dome Inc. (39,9%) and its partner, the Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos [1;2].

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Basic Data
NameMarcopper Placer Dome Mining Disaster, Marinduque Island, Philippines
ProvinceMarinduque province
SiteSanta Cruz
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Tailings from mines
Mineral processing
Specific CommoditiesSilver
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsMarcopper Mining Corporation, held by Placer Development Ltd. (former Placer Dome), operated two mines on Marinduque Philippines; the Mt. Tapian Pit and the San Antonio Mine. The two mines were under operation from 1969 – 1996. [2].

Related mining tenements of Marcopper Mining Corporation in Santa Cruz covered 4,668.32ha (AMA-IVB-127 AMND); 27ha (LLA-V-271); 45ha (LLC-V-269) and 18ha (LLC-V-270) [8], totaling 4758.32ha.

In 1964, the Marcopper Mining Corporation was established and in 1969, Marcopper started its mining operations. Placer Dome owned 39.9% of shares of Marcopper, which was the legal limit of foreign involvement in Philippine companies. Until 1994, Placer Dome was the only company involved in the Marcopper mines; at least 50% of the remaining shares were held by Placer Dome’s secret partner, the Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. After he was overthrown in 1986, Marco’s shares were held by the subsequent Philippines governments (Aquino and Ramos) until they were privatized in 1994 [2].

For the mining operations, loans were initially secured from a consortium of American banks [2]. Later on, also the Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided a loan amounting to 40 million USD [4]. Other creditors have been Philippine Solidbank and RCBC [7], among others.

From 1969 to 1990, a total of 779.6 million kg of copper, 23 million grams of gold, and 127.9 million grams of silver were produced [3].

After the disaster, Placer Dome Technical Services Ltd., subsidiary of Placer Dome Inc, was set up to clean up the area [b]. Placer Dome divested from Marcopper in 1997 via the involvement of Cayman Island MR Holdings Company, stating that it would continue to take responsibility for the cleanup and compensations. However, in 2001 and agreement was made, according to which responsibilities were left with Marcopper, while Placer Dome disappeared from the Philippines [2].
Project Area (in hectares)4758.32
Level of Investment (in USD)>40,000,000 USD (=secured loan for mining development)
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population15,000 directly affected, much more indirectly affected
Start Date1969
Company Names or State EnterprisesMarcopper Mining Corporation from Philippines - mining
Placer Dome Inc. from Canada - mining
Barrick Gold Corporation from Canada
Placer Dome Technical Services Limited (PDTSL) from Canada - mining
MR Holdings from Cayman Islands
Relevant government actorsPhilippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)

Provincial Government of Marinduque
International and Financial InstitutionsAsian Development Bank (ADB)
Solidbank Corporation from Philippines - finance, banking
Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) (RCBC) from Philippines - banking, finance
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersMarinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC); Calancan Bay Fisherfolks Federation; Upholding Life and Nature (ULAN); Provincial Government of Marinduque; Kalikasan; Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM); Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines; Protestant National Council of Churches; Calancan Bay Villagers Support Coalition (CBVSC); Mining Watch, and others
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Deaths, Other Health impacts, Other environmental related diseases
Otherblood intoxication by heavy metals and other substances (lead, cyanide) and subsequent deaths.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
There have been settlement processes between the company and the provincial government, but no acceptable outcome was achieved. The court decided that the provincial government may re-file the case in Canada.
Development of AlternativesThe provincial government of Marinduque has filed a lawsuit against the company, demanding proper compensation for the vast damages as well as clean-up activities and a clean up fund. The provincial government of Marinduque further pursues a Moratoria on Mining on the Island in order to become a mining-free zone.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The damages are vast and irreversible. There hasn't been proper compensation (if possible) or proper environmental clean-up.
Sources and Materials

Philippine Mining Act of 1995
[click to view]


[4] Sarah Beamish, Extracting Accountability: The Need to End Impunity for Environmental Crimes and Human Rights Abuses Committed by Canadian Corporations Abroad (New Haven, Ct.: One Justice Project, 2014).
[click to view]


[7] GMA News online (17/09/2008). SC tells RCBC to go after Marcopper: (accessed 20/04/2015)
[click to view]

[1] Socialwatch 2005. Marinduque mining disaster (accessed 20/04/2015)
[click to view]

[2] Mining Watch /Catherine Coumans. 2002. Placer Dome Case Study: Marcopper Mine. (accessed 20/04/2015)
[click to view]

[5] Mining Watch Canada 2014. Philippine Province’s Lawsuit against Barrick Gold Could End Up in Canada. (accessed 20/04/2015)
[click to view]

[6] Business World online (25.03.2015). Mining-free Marinduque? (accessed 20/04/2015)
[click to view]

Media Links

Video Documentary on the case “Bleeding Heart”
[click to view]

Other Documents

[8] Marinduque Mining Tenement Map
[click to view]

[3] Historical Overview of and Updates on Mining in Marinduqe and its Impacts. Marinduque Council of Environmental Concerns (MACEC). 2005 (accessed 20/04/2015) Source:
[click to view]

Marcopper Mining Spills Source:
[click to view]

Marcopper pit Source:
[click to view]

Waste disposal into the Bay Source:
[click to view]

The Marcopper Tapian pit Source:
[click to view]

River contamined by copper-sulphate Source:
[click to view]

Situation of Mogpog river now in Marinduque
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorA. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) and Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
Last update24/04/2015