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The San Marcelino tailings dam spill (Zambales, Philippines)

(last updated 12 Sep 2002)


The dam failure and its impacts

Mine wastes from two damaged tailings dams and spillways of the Dizon Copper Silver Mines Inc. (DCSMI) in San Marcelino, Zambales, have spilled into the Mapanuepe Lake and eventually into the Sto. Tomas River, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources confirmed on Friday Aug. 30, 2002.
An Aug. 27, 2002, inspection revealed that heavy rains impounded water on the Bayarong and Camalca dams and spillways, eroding these and eventually causing the mine wastes to leak to the lake below. Each dam's catchment area spans 50 hectares.
About 2,000 families live near the mine site, located in an upland area some 30 kilometers east of the San Marcelino town proper, according to the Zambales Disaster Response Network. The lake and the river, although silted with lahar (volcanic mudflow), remained as fishing grounds and irrigation sources for five Zambales towns.
(Philippine Daily Inquirer Aug. 31, 2002 )

On Sep. 5, 2002, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) called the sudden burst of the dams "unlikely". But even in a worst case scenario, the Mapanuepe Lake would be able to withstand the additional load, according to DENR.
The 122-hectare Bayarong tailings dam is holding some 47 million cubic meters of tailings and the Camalca waste dam is holding silt and debris.
(DENR release Sep. 5, 2002 )

The spillway of an abandoned mine here collapsed Sep. 11, 2002, flooding low-lying villages with mine wastes and other chemicals. At least 250 families in Barangays Buhawen, Sta. Fe and Poblacion were evacuated to safer grounds shortly after the spillway burst at 1 p.m. at the height of a strong downpour. No one was reported hurt but town and provincial officials, led by Gov. Vicente Magsaysay, feared that mine wastes that leaked from the spillway might endanger lives of villagers.
In an earlier interview, Jaime Tongol, chief of the Dizon Copper and Silver Mines Inc. (DCSMI) maintenance team, said the mine wastes and water spilling from the firm's Bayarong tailings dam and the Camalca silt dam were not laden with mercury. He said Bayarong, DCSMI's main dam, confines the mine tailings and serves as a reservoir of recycled water for the milling process.
Located east of Barangay Buhawen here, the Bayarong dam is naturally enclosed by the hills of Mt. Bayarong. The dike's southwest side is made up of silt and clay extracted from the open pit Kaline mine. (Philippine Daily Inquirer Sep. 12, 2002 )

On Sep. 12, 2002, environment officials ordered the evacuation of some 1,000 families in three villages here following the collapse of a spillway of a mine tailings dam and continuous heavy rains in the province.
Leonardo Sibbaluca, Department of Environment and Natural Resources executive director in Central Luzon, said the villages of Buhawen, Aglao and Makarang were in danger of being swamped with mine wastes and water from the damaged Bayarong spillway of the DCSMI. The villages are below the Kaline pit of the DCSMI. They also surround the Mapanuepe Lake, which remains the lone saving factor of the residents from a looming disaster.
Since heavy rains hit Zambales in July and began causing the dam's spillway to crumble, the 1,000-hectare lake had served as catchment area of mine wastes and water spillage from the Bayarong and Camalca dams.
Insp. Romeo Barbadillo, police chief here and leader of a five-member team sent to assess the damage in the dam site, did not discount the possibility that the dam would collapse because of heavy rains. "Should (the dam burst), thousands of lives, including property and work animals, are endangered not only because of heavy flooding but due to the chemical residues mixed in the dam's pond," he said.
Gov. Vicente Magsaysay cautioned residents here, especially those living in low-lying areas, to take precautionary measures or seek safe grounds should the dam collapse. The first and the most immediate situation that is being watched is the flow of a big volume of mine wastes and water streaming from the two dams. Wastes and water would eventually flood the Mapanuepe Lake and spread through the residential areas. (Philippine Daily Inquirer Sep. 13, 2002 )


The causes of the dam failure


The aftermath of the dam failure






News + Infos:


Dizon Copper-Silver Mines, Inc.
Suites 214-215, State Condominium IV
Ortigas Avenue, Greenhills
San Juan, Manila
Tel.: +63-2-721-3961 to 63; +63-2-722-5916 to 20 (TL)
Fax: +63-2-721-5754

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