Senate probes Philex mining spill-A A +A
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
BAGUIO CITY – The Senate committee on Environment and Natural Resources started the investigation Tuesday on the Philex Mining Corporation’s Padcal mine disaster.
Representatives of the Philex Mining Corporation attended the Senate inquiry on Tuesday.
Fay Apil, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) officer in charge, and over 41 other groups from government and nongovernment organizations also appeared before the Senate hearing.
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.
Ed Aratas, chief of Philex’s legal division, said the inquiry will thresh out problems encountered after the spill and it hopes to craft legislation to prepare for similar events in the future.
“There have been no official findings yet from the government on the exact details of the spill such as the toxicity of waste, the accurate amount of waste spilled, as well as the effect on all those living near the Balog and Agno river systems,” said Senator Serge Osmeña.
He said he received a letter from various non-government organizations (NGOs) calling on the Senate to conduct an investigation into the incident.
“We owe it to our people, the country and ourselves to know the truth about the massive leak, its impact to the affected communities, the Local Government Units, and our ecosystem,” Osmeña added.
The inquiry is done in the interest of transparency, fairness, and justice, Osmeña said. “I strongly and respectfully request that the appropriate committees of the Senate initiate proper inquiry, in aid of legislation, even while the Senate is on recess.”
The senator tagged the spill as unprecedented.
“The penstocks of the only operational mine-tailings pond or Pond ‘C’ of Philex in Benguet had collapsed, causing the discharge of over 20.6 million metric tons of mine wastes,” Osmeña said, adding the amount of waste spilled in the incident was 20 times more than the infamous Marinduque Mining Disaster that left Boac River dead over a decade ago.
Aratas said Philex is
temporarily operating after getting the nod of the government to continue work for four months to fill up tailings pond 3 before the rainy season sets in July.
Philex resumed operations in February 26 to collect tailings to fill the defective pond and stabilize the area.
Aratas said the Senate inquiry will not affect the temporary operations of the mines. (Sun.Star Baguio/Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 21, 2013.