Philex eyes extension of Padcal mine life

Rappler.com
The company is exploring for viable deposits around its Padcal copper-gold mine in Benguet in a bid to extend the mine's lifespan beyond 2020

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 – Philex Mining Corporation is exploring for viable deposits around its Padcal copper-gold mine in Benguet in a bid to extend the mine’s lifespan beyond 2020.

Interviewed on the sidelines of the launch of new TV program on Friday night, February 21 Philex chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan confirmed that prospects for expansion of production within the tenement is being reviewed.

“We are prospecting within the concession area to see whether there are additional resources that we can develop to extend the mine life,” Pangilinan said.

He said the company has completed the rehabilitation of the mine, which had a massive tailings spill in August 2012.

While the extent of rehabilitation is assessed, the mine operates on a temporary basis.

“We have already filed an application with government for the permanent lifting [of the temporary operation status] and we are just waiting,” said Pangilinan.

Violations, rehabilitations

On August 1, 2012, torrential rains dumped into tailings pond number 3 of the mine damaged the underground drainage system of the pond, causing tons of sediment to contaminate the Agno River and Balog Creek.

Tailings were also caught in the dead storage of the San Roque multipurpose dam in Pangasinan.

The company paid the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) a record fine of P1.034 billion for the tailings spill and still faces a huge fine imposed by the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) for violation of the Clean Water Act.

The PAB imposed the maximum penalty of P200,000 per day until the pollution is completely cleared from the waterways.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Leo Jasareno said the company completed the rehabilitation works listed in its rehabilitation plan.

“The MGB and the Pollution adjudication board will come up with a roadmap for Philex,” he said.

These rehabilitation works include the construction of an open spillway that would replace the pond’s underground tunnel drainage system, the restoration of the integrity of the compromised tailings storage facility and the clean up of the affected waterways.

Philex president and CEO Eulalio Austin Jr. said the company is appealing the huge fine imposed by PAB.

“There are charges by the PAB that we feel that should not be charged. That’s why we are appealing that with the PAB,” Austin said.

He noted that as early as October 2012, the company complied with the water safety standards set by the government.

“Three months into the incident, we complied with the Clean Water Act. The water discharges were within standards already,” he added.

The Padcal mine, which covers the municipalities of Tuba and Itogon in Benguet, is Philex’s only operating mine in the country.

It is pre-developing its Silangan copper-gold project in Surigao del Norte through its wholly-owned subsidiary Silangan Mindanao Mining Co. Inc. The Silangan project is expected to begin commercial production in 2017. – Rappler.com

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