Pollution board allows Philex to continue operations

Rappler.com
The state pollution board allows Philex Mining to continue with its remediation measures for the damaged tailings facility in its Padcal gold and copper mine

MINE SPILL. A Philex Mining staff checks the penstock at the tailing pond of the Padcal mine in Benguet. Photo provided by Philex

MANILA, Philippines – The Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) allowed Philex Mining Corp to continue with its remediation measures for the damaged tailings facility in its gold and copper mine in Padcal, Benguet province.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Tuesday, July 9, Philex said it received a copy of the July 5 order of the PAB extending the temporary lifting of the cease-and-desist order (CDO) issued due to a water pollution case now pending before the agency.

“The Board resolved to extend the temporary lifting of the issued cease and desist order last November 28, 2012 to allow respondent to implement its pollution control program by filling the void with fresh tailing as well as the reconstruction of the offset dike under the same terms and conditions,” PAB said in the order.

This is the second favorable decision Philex has been granted in the past days. On July 5, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and its attached agency, the Mines Geosciences Bureau (MGB), gave their nod for Philex to continue temporary operations in the Padcal mine after issuing a suspension order.

The PAB is a quasi-judicial body not covered by the authority of the MGB or DENR. The CDO it issued was right after the accidental discharge last August 1, 2012, prohibiting Philex from operating its damaged Tailings Storage Facility 3.

Total penalties to date for the pollution caused by the tailings spill to the Balog creek and Agno river have reached P280.2 million. This is on top of the P1.034 billion Philex had to pay for Mining Act violations.

Philex has been fined for the following 3 violations of the Clean Water Act:

  1. P15.2 million for Philex’s failure from August 3 to October 17, 2012 to comply with the effluent standards set by the government.
  2. P30.4 million for two counts of violation on the water quality criteria during the same period
  3. P136.4 million initial fine for violations of RA 9275 from August 3, 2012 to July 9, 2013

The first two violations have been complied with, but penalties under the 3rd violation continues to accumulate until Philex secures the clearance from MGB and the Environmental Management Bureau that the water systems affected by the tailings spill have been cleaned up.

The Padcal mine’s tailings facility leaked several times starting August 1, 2012 as torrential rain battered the area. The spillage resulted in the discharge of non-toxic sediment from its tailings dam. The spill cast another shadow on a industry that has been haunted by episodes of mining disasters in the country.

Following the incident, Philex saw its net income in the first quarter of 2013 plunge 68% from a year ago. 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 a year ago. – Rappler.com

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