San Roque Dam out of danger from Philex leak

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources says the dam is now safe from being contaminated by silt coming from Philex's Padcal mine

MANILA, Philippines – Waste that leaked from Philex Mining Corp’s Padcal mine in Benguet will not reach the San Roque Dam in Pangasinan, a government official assured the public on Thursday, September 6.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the dam, which is the source of the power and irrigation needs of Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija and Tarlac, is now safe from being contaminated by silt coming from the Padcal mine’s tailings pond.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said that measures to ensure the safety of the dam are ongoing.

“There is no danger of silt reaching the San Roque Dam. It is also God’s intervention. Because of the heavy rains, the dilution capacity of the dam increased considerably,” Paje said.

Bad weather

The structure of the mine’s tailings pond no. 3 weakened due to incessant rain, resulting in the leakage. It discharged waste into the Balog Creek, which drains into the Agno River. The San Roque Dam is situated 30 kilometers downstream of Agno River from its convergence with Balog Creek.

Paje said the silt from the tailings pond that threatened to reach the dam was trapped in the reservoir’s dead storage, which has a capacity of 300 million cubic meters.

He said heavy rains prevented Philex from stopping the leakage. The rain increased the dilution capacity of the dam so traces of chemicals that may have seeped into the reservoir now do not pose danger to the surroundings.

Paje said that while the dam is out of danger of chemical contamination, the department is still conducting laboratory analyses of water samples.

No need for new tailings pond

Among the options considered to prevent another leakage from happening is to replace the penstock, and construct a new tailings pond, which will take between 6 months and a year.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director Leo Jasareno, however, said that based on the initial assessment, the Padcal mine’s tailings pond no. 3 may still be used but the method of draining its water will be changed.

“Tailings pond no. 3 will still be used but the draining of water will be changed to avoid the recurrence of the incident,” Jasareno said.

Philex chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan is now reviewing the recommendations of the company’s consultants and is expected to present these to the board of directors soon. – Rappler.com

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