Finish clean up of mine wastes, Philex told
The state pollution body requires total clean up of the mine tailings that spilled into affected waterways before it will allow Philex to operate its copper-gold mine again

CLEAN UP. The state pollution body requires Philex to complete the clean up of mine waste residues in the two rivers affected by the tailings spill before normal operations can re-start. Photo courtesy of Philex

MANILA, Philippines – The state pollution body required Philex Mining Corp. to complete the clean up of mine tailings that spilled into affected waterways before it allows the Padcal copper-gold mine to operate again.

Environment Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio, speaking as the presiding officer of the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB), told reporters on Thursday, May 23, that Philex must first complete its mining rehabilitation program by July, the deadline BAC gave, before the board issues a clearance.

“While there is still trace of pollution, the PAB will not allow them to operate again,” Ignacio said, adding that based on PAB’s latest assessment on the state of the affected waterways, sediment is still thick in the affected Agno and balog Rivers.

“Right now, if you will go to the river, most of the tailings are still there. The saving grace here is is that the tailings do not contain harmful chemicals,” he said. “The cleanup is still not substantial as of this time.”

BAC said it will reinstate the cease and desist order if Philex misses the July deadline.

Pollution fine

Philex is also contesting the P92.8 million fine imposed by PAB in violation of the Clean Water Act, Ignacio said.

The company has been fined P200,000 per day until the pollution is completely cleared from the waterways, the official added.

As of May 23, Philex faces a penalty of P180 million. The mining firm has filed a motion before the board two months ago, questioning the “parameters of computation of the fine.”

The PAB is expected to meet in two weeks to assess the company’s motion. “If we do not agree to that, they can go to the Court of Appeals,” he said.

The Environment Department has also fined Philex P1.034 billion over violations of the Mining Act following the August 2012 leak at its tailings pond facility in Benguet mountain province. Philex paid this in full on February 18.

Financial impact

Philex Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan previously said the company hopes to get government’s approval for full operations so it could recover its losses.

“The next step for us is to obtain approval for a permanent resumption so Padcal can get back to its normal status as soon as possible,” he said on April 30.

Philex, the country’s largest listed mining firm, saw its net income in the first quarter of 2013 plunge 68% from a year ago due to the suspension of its Padcal mine operations.

Philex said its January to March net income reached only P403 million, significantly down from the P1.268 billion it recorded in the same period last year.

Padcal was shut down beginning August 1, 2012, when one of its tailings ponds broke, spilling waste into nearby river systems.

The mine was allowed to temporarily operate on March 8 to fill the void in its tailings pond, a necessary procedure to prevent the pond from collapsing again.

Since the resumption of its operations, some 611,801 tons of minerals were milled from the mine: 7,610 ounces of gold and 2.434 million pounds of copper. –

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