Govt allows Philex to resume mining operations
MANILA, Philippines - Philex Mining Corp. can resume its gold-copper mine operations in Benguet mountain province for up to 4 months as part of rehabilitation and clean up efforts for the tailings pond that had leaked in August 2012.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) granted Philex's request to undertake tests at its Padcal mine's waste facility, which had caused the entire mine to halt operations almost 7 months ago.
“This office has determined that greater risk is posed if the main dike of TFS3 (Tailings Storage Facility No. 3) is not immediately protected from the weakening action of water due to the void created by the tailings spill incident,” MGB director Leo Jasareno said in its February 26 order.
During the next 4 months, Philex will be conducting a process called beaching, which was recommended by the company's foreign consultants. Bleaching involves dumping about 3.5 million tons of fresh tailings to push away water from the pond's embankment into an open spillway.
Philex pressed for the permission to conduct the beaching months before the onset of the rainy season to prevent a possible collapse of the tailings storage facility an overflow of more silt into the Agno River.
Jasareno recognized that it would be "more catasrophic" if the beaching process is not conducted.
"Philex was allowed to fill up the void in the tailings pond with freash tailings. This is to avoid the greater risk of a collapse of the main dike due to adverse action of water that has filled the void," Jasareno said in a text message.
"If we don't allow this and the main dike will collapse, about 140 million metric tons of tailings will spill to Agno River. That will be more catastrophic," he added.
“We thank the government regulators for listening to us and our stakeholders,” said Philex President and Chief Operating Officer Eulalio Austin, Jr. in a statement. “We thank our investors, who stood by us over the past seven months, as well as our employees who remained committed to our values of environmental social responsibility,” he added.
Monitoring and audit of the remediation efforts will be done round-the-clock by an independent 3rd party Philex will commission and the MGB will approve.
The assessors should "possess the necessary track record for the task, has no business interest in Philex or its subsidiaries," Jasareno said.
On February 18, Philex paid the government fine of P1.034 billion for a series of tailings spill that began on August 1, 2012 amid torrential rains brought about by a series of weather disturbances. - Rappler.com