MANILA, Philippines - The final verdict on the massive P1.034 billion fine the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has slapped on gold producer Philex Mining Corp for the tailings pond spill at its Padcal mine is expected to be announced this week.
Philex is contesting the fine, citing force majeur, not negligence, as the cause of the tailing pond leakage, which in turn resulted in spilling of mine wastage into river systems in Luzon starting August.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje will determine if Philex's position has merit based on the recommendations of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
The MGB has recommended the over P1 billion fine against Philex in September, citing violation of the Mining Act of 1995.
A multi-disciplinary team found that the total volume of discharged sediment to the Balog River has reached 13,513,507 cubic meters as of September 6. This brings the weight of discharged solids to 20.69 million tons. The Mining Act imposes a penalty of P50 per metric ton of tailings discharge.
The P1 billion fine excludes the fine of between P50,000 to P200,000 for violation of the Clean Water Act, which would be imposed on a per day basis until the pollution is cleared from the waterways affected by the discharge. The Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) continues to deliberate on the total amount of fines to be imposed on the firm.
Still pending is the verdict on the P50,000 fine imposed by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) for violation of a provision of its Environmental Compliance Certificate (EC) which states that all mining wastes should be 100% contained.
No damage to agriculture and aquatic resources have yet been reported from the communities hosting the mine.
In the report of the MGB-led investigation team, it was noted that Philex undertakes a maintenance check of its broken tailings pond no. 3 only once a year. The MGB recommended that monitoring of the tailings ponds be undertaken more frequently.
Philex still has to submit a final clean up plan to the government, according to MGB director Leo Jasareno.
In an interview over the weekend, Jasareno said the company is expected to submit its final cleanup plan for the Padcal mine on November 22, after being granted an extension.
“If we find the cleanup plan satisfactory, we will ask Philex to implement it,” said Jasareno.
He said the DENR will also form a multi-agency team to assess the socio-environmental impact of the damage caused by the tailings spill. This would be composed of assessors from the MGB, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), National Irrigation Administration, University of the Philippines, as well as representatives of local government units in the affected areas.
Philex officials said that cleanup efforts will continue amid other developments in the mine. - Rappler.com