Another mine spill: Govt penalizes Citinickel in Palawan

Rappler.com
The government imposed over P500,000 fine for the tailings pond spill in November at Citinickel's Toronto mining operations in Palawan

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has penalized Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. (CMDC) for a silt spill incident in its Toronto nickel site in Palawan that occurred in November.

The Environment Management Bureau of the DENR imposed more than P500,000 fine for the compensation of affected groups in the area.

Citinickel must pay P146,745 and P368,000 to the respective owners of farm lots and those along the affected river, according to the notice of violation (NOV) issued by the DENR.

The water from the pond flowed into the river and irrigation canals affecting 6.8 hectares of farm lots and a fish pond, as well as the Pinagdugunan river.

“Citinickel must comply with the notice of violation. They must immediately pay the farmers compensation,” Leo Jasareno, the head of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), a DENR agency, said in an interview.

He said that while the company continues to operate at the mine site, the MGB regional office in Palawan has been instructed to review the operations of the mine to determine if it is fit to continue operation.

This Citinickel incident comes after the government imposed an over P1-billion fine against Philex Mining Corp, the country’s biggest gold and copper producer, for a tailings pond leakage at its Padcal mine in Benguet following torrential rain in August 2012.     

The spill

Silt-laden water spilled from Citinickel’s silt pond No. 2 at its Toronto Mining Area in Barangay (village) San Isidro, Narra, in Palawan on the night of November 25, 2012, a report reaching the MGB showed.

However, unlike the mine spill in Padcal that Philex said was caused by force majeure, the Citinickel incident in Palawan was due to the mine’s lapses, the government’s investigation showed.   

The report said the Palawan mine spill was “due to lapses in the judgement of the mine foreman who was tasked to drain water from silt pond no. 2 to silt pond no. 1.”

“The said personnel excavated a canal towards an old and non-serviceable silt sump that leads to outflowing of silt towards a gully and then downslope leading to Pinagduguan River,” the report said.

After a series of investigation, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) issued on No. 29, 2012 a cease-and-desist order (CDO) for the use of the compromised tailings pond.

On December 4, 2012 the EMB issued a notice of violation (NOV) informing the company of the assessment of the damages and of the fines.

On December 7, the MGB regional office in Palawan sent Citinickel a letter instructing it to immediately pay the compensation due to farmers affected by the spill.

On December 11, Citinickel responded to the MGB that it has begun undertaking measures to address the adverse impact of the spill to the Pinagduguan and the farm lots. – Rappler.com