It's final: Philex to pay P1-B fine for Padcal spill
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Thursday, November 22, upheld its decision to impose a P1.034-billion fine on Philex Mining Corp. for the tailings spill at its Padcal mine in Benguet province.
In a press conference in Quezon City, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said Philex's agrument that the incident was caused by force majeure is "unacceptable."
"We are sticking to our original position that they should pay the fine," he said.
Paje said the company has 45 days to pay the fine.
He said however that the department may still consider the company's petition for a lower fine.
Philex earlier contested the fine, saying force majeure, not negligence, caused the Padcal tailings pond to leak. The mine accident spilled wastes into rivers in Luzon last August.
Philex spokesman Mike Toledo said they will appeal the DENR's decision on the fine, despite the latter's claim that the decision is already final.
"We will exercise out right... We have always been consistent with our statement and we will contest everything," he said.
Pond's structural integrity
Philex asserted that the structure of its tailings pond weakened due to a series of storms and incessant rain that were out of the company's control.
However, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Leo Jasareno said that upon evaluation of the firm’s comments, the agency ruled that “the incident was not a fortuitous event.”
“In the case at hand, the typhoons and the southwest monsoon that brought unprecedented and unexpected amount of rainfall in the area are indeed 'Acts of God.' However, these are typical weather characteristics and expected in this country, being situated in a tropical region and in the typhoon belt. The advent of climate change must also be considered,” said Jasareno.
“Thus prudence dictates that caution and safety in the care and maintenance of its facilities and structures should have been exercised, especially that a mining operation is involved,” he added.
The MGB concluded that Philex “failed to maintain the structural integrity” of the tailings pond.
The P1-billion fine was slapped on the company for violation of the Mining Act. It excludes other fines that the company faces.
Philex will be fined between P50,000 to P200,000 for violation of the Clean Water Act. It may also be fined P50,000 for violation of its environmental compliance certificate.
A multi-disciplinary team found that as of September 6, the total volume of sediment discharged from the Padcal mine to the Balog River stood at 13,513,507 cubic meters. This brought the weight of discharged solids to 20.69 million tons. The Mining Act imposes a penalty of P50 per metric ton of tailings discharge. - Rappler.com