Gov’t lifts suspension on Philex’s Padcal mine

Pia Ranada
The mining company has ‘substantially addressed’ the adverse impacts of the disastrous spill of mining sediments in Benguet in August 2012, says the Mines and Geosciences Bureau

REHAB MEASURES. A Philex Mining staff checks the penstock at the tailing pond of the Padcal mine in Benguet. Photo from Philex

MANILA, Philippines – Two years after a breach in its drainage tunnel caused a disastrous spill of mining sediments into Benguet rivers, Philex Mining Corporation can now continue operations in its Padcal mine in Tuba, Benguet.

In a letter dated August 27, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Chief Leo Jasareno lifted the suspension on the gold and copper mine, saying impacts of the spill “have been substantially addressed to warrant the resumption of the normal operation of Philex.”

The letter noted the steps Philex had taken to provide reparation for damage, and rehabilitate and clean up the areas affected by the spill.

The company paid P1.034 billion (US$23.6 million*) in fine for discharging 20.7 million tons of tailings to the Balog and Agno Rivers – the biggest mining disaster in the country in terms of volume.

The company also paid P188.6 million ($4.3 million) to the Pollution Adjudication Board for the environmental damage caused by the spill.

It paid an additional P5 billion ($114.4 million) for the clean-up of waterways polluted by the spill, said Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.

The Tailings Storage Facility No 3, the tunnel that leaked allegedly because of torrential rains, has been sealed. The excess water containing mining sediments is now being discharged in an open spillway replacing the penstock system that failed and caused the spill, said Jasareno.

Philex had undertaken the proper remedial and rehabilitation measures, as concluded a report by the Mining Industry Coordinating Council, through a technical working group chaired by Presidential Adviser for Environment Protection Nereus Acosta.

The lifting order also took into consideration appeals from various stakeholders for the government to permanently lift the suspension order on Padcal.

The groups who petitioned include the Indigenous Peoples of Tuba and Itogon in Benguet and San Miguel and San Nicolas in Pangasinan who benefit from job opportunities in the mine and payment of royalty by Philex for use of their land.

Petitioners also include barangay councils of Benguet villages, church groups and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines Party List.

The mine’s drainage tunnel leaked on August 1, 2012 polluting nearby rivers and even rendering some of them unable to sustain life. The day after, the DENR-MGB issued a cease and desist order to stop the mine’s operations.

In July 2013, the government allowed Philex to temporarily resume operations while regulators reviewed their rehabilitation plan. – Rappler.com

*1 USD = Php 43.73

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.