Mines bureau: Philex may face more fines-A A +A
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
BAGUIO CITY -- The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said additional penalty may be imposed on Philex Mining Corporation if the earlier compensation for the damages of the mine spill is not enough.
Philex Mining is also hopeful that MGB will allow the resumption of its Padcal mine operations in Itogon, Benguet, where one of its tailing ponds leak millions of metric tons of mine waste last year.
MGB Cordillera updated the Provincial Board of Benguet on Tuesday the developments of the rehabilitation work Philex Mining is conducting on its tailings pond 3 in Itogon.
Benguet Board Member Benjamin Saguid asked Engineer Felizardo Gacad Jr. of MGB during the presentation on the possibility that the P1.034 billion penalty will be insufficient to cover damages by the spill.
Saguid expressed fears residents of the town will not be properly compensated.
However, Gacad assured Saguid that MGB will impose additional penalty if the earlier amount will not cover all the damages.
The board members also asked Gacad to explain the basis of the computation of the penalty.
Gacad explained that the computation was made by multiplying the estimate overflowed mine wastes (around 21 million metric tanks) by P50 per metric tank.
The mine engineer revealed the affected residents had already filed their complaints against the mining firm. But Gacad said the affected residents can also file their damage claims with the MGB–Cordillera.
On July 2012 an unusual amount of water accumulated in tailings pond 3 of Philex located in Balog, Ampucao, Itogon.
A sink hole resulted causing the pond to spill about 21 million metric tanks of mine wastes along Balog Creek until it reached the Agno River.
Later, the MGB central office issued a cease and desist order against Philex and asked for proper compensation of the damaged caused by the spill. The agency penalized Philex with P1.034 billion.
After a few months, the pollution adjudication board penalized Philex with a fine of P92.8 million.
The MGB - Cordillera earlier explained the suspension will only be lifted if the rehabilitation of the dam and its surroundings will be completed.
Philex have to clean up the Balog Creek and the river banks of the Agno too. These rehabilitations needed are now ongoing, and some were already completed by Philex.
Meanwhile, officials and consultants of Philex Mining have asked MGB to lift the suspension on Padcal Mines after presenting a rehabilitation plan for its affected tailing pond.
At a public hearing on Wednesday, Philex said consultants have recommended a process that will take three to four months to rehabilitate the affected tailing pond.
MGB assured to make a decision on Philex's plea within a week.
Senator Sergio Osmeña III has asked for a Senate investigation into the massive mine spill at the Padcal mine of Philex Mining Corporation following complaints from non-government organizations, indigenous peoples and church leaders.
Osmeña said the probe, which he wanted to be conducted during the break for the campaign period that started Wednesday, will help in crafting laws to prevent similar incidents.
On August 1, 2012, a leak was discovered in the tailings-pond of Philex’s Padcal mines, spilling about 21 million metric tanks of mine wastes along the Balog Creek and also reached the Agno River.
On August 2, 2012, MGB-CAR issued a cease order to Philex Mining Corporation, suspending the operation of the company.
On August 30, 2012, another leak was discovered in the Tailings Pond 3 of the mining firm located in Balog, Ampucao, Itogon.
Philex, the country's largest mining firm run by Manny Pangilinan, had said the tailings-pond collapsed in Padcal mine was due to bad weather.
But Osmeña refused to buy Philex's arguments, recounting past accidents in the same mining site including the collapse of a dam wall in 1992 due to a weakened foundation caused by an earthquake that happened two years earlier.
He said the more than 20 million metric tons of tailings gushed from the tailings-pond in Padcal mine surpassed what was spilled out of the Marcopper mine in 1996 in Marinduque, which dumped approximately two million metric tons of wastes into the Boac River.
"As it is, these mining accidents could not just be justified as force majeure," he said.
The senator said the government has yet come up with findings on the toxicity, accurate volume of total discharges, and their impact to the communities directly and indirectly affected by the disaster.
"We owe it to our people, the country and ourselves to know the truth about the massive leak, its impact to the affected communities and our ecosystem," he said Wednesday. (Sun.Star Baguio with Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on February 07, 2013.