Govt may allow Philex mine to reopen temporarily
MANILA, Philippines – The government may allow Philex Mining Corp. to resume its Padcal mine operations as early as next week.
Mines and Geosciences Bureau Leo Jasareno said they are taking into serious consideration Philex’s request to be allowed to produce tailings and fill the void in its compromised pond for up to 4 months to prevent it from breaking again.
Jasareno said there was no other way to fill the void.
“There is still no alternative being considered. This is the first time this happened,” Jasareno said in a public hearing at the MGB head office in Quezon City Wednesday, February 6.
Representatives from indigenous groups and employees of local government units in Benguet province also filed a petition for Philex to be allowed to temporarily resume operations.
“We will fully take into consideration your petition. It is clear to us that the supension order has an effect on your livelihood. We will always take into account the socio-economic effects of the situation,” Jasareno told the representatives of the groups in the hearing, adding his office will hand a decision in a week.
Padcal’s tailings pond, which broke due to incessant rains in August 2012, was designed to hold solids. Foreign consultants hired by Philex recommended a process called “beaching” where 3.5 million tons of fresh tailings must be dumped into the pond to push the water away.
“We are requesting the MGB to lift the suspension to enable Philex to undergo rehabilitation before the rains come,” said Philex President and OO Eulalio Austin Jr.
Libby Ricafort, Philex vice president for operations and Padcal resident manager, said beaching must begin this month so it could finish before the rainy season starts in June.
A total of 20 million tons of waste spilled into the dead storage of the San Roque Dam in Pangasinan, and into the Agno and Balog rivers.
Philex submitted a clean-up and rehabilitation plan, which will involve taking the tailings out of San Roque’s dead storage. The corporation managing the dam earlier informed Philex the silt was causing problems in the dam’s seals and pumps.
The MGB will also decide in a week on Philex’s rehab plan.
Philex will pay P1.034-billion fine for the tailing spill on February 19, the deadline set by government, Philex Spokeperson Mike Toledo said. – Rappler.com