PAB clears Philex; MGB ruling still pending

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Thursday, June 19, 2014


PHILEX is not out of the woods yet.

As the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) lifted the cease and desist order issued to Philex Mining Corporation, allowing them to fully operate, a decision from the Mines and Geosciences is still pending to clear the company.

The PAB decision covers only violations of the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 and the terms of its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

Philex paid PAB P188.6 million worth of fines for the 2012 leak in Padcal. The fines covered violations of the Philippine Clean Water Act for the discharge of nontoxic water and sediment from Padcal's Tailings facility.

The fines were for the act of discharging any kind of substances to the water bodies causing water pollution for 76 days to both Balog and Agno rivers set at P30,400,000; for act of discharging materials of any kind to the water bodies impending the natural flow pegged at P43,400,000 for Balog creek for 217 days; while another fine for the Agno river was paid in the amount of P114,800,000 for discharges spanning 574 days.

The MGB decision will determine if the company will be given a permit to permanently operate as the suspension order it issued in 2012 is still in effect.

A formal lifting of the MGB suspension order is underway, taking into consideration the PAB decision as well as the findings of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), which has also inspected Padcal clean up of both Balog and Agno rivers.

Previously, DENR-MGB Director Leo Jasareno and DENR secretary Ramon Paje went to see for themselves the extent of rehabilitation the company has done since the 2012 leak.

Philex SVP for Corporate Affairs, Michael Toledo welcomed the PAB decision.

“The company will continue to work further as a responsible miner by marching on with its environmental-stewardship advocacy through the various forestation and reforestation activities, as well as the rehabilitation of TSF3, including the completion of an open spillway,” he said.

At the Padcal site, besides the construction of the P500-million open spillway, which replaces TSF3’s underground drainage system, the urgent remediation measures at Padcal include the filling up (with fresh tails) of the conical void at the pond left behind by the tailings leak accident as well as the creation of a beach to push the accumulated water away from the pond, which is tasked to hold solids, and onto the spillway.

TSF3’s third and last chute will be finished in July, making the pond able to accommodate an unusual rainfall of 1,500 millimeters (mm) over a 24-hour period—more than thrice the 455 mm of rain dumped by Typhoon Ondoy in 24 hours in 2009. The pond’s Penstock A, from which water discharges onto the Balog Creek via Tunnel A, had been sealed off with concrete after the accident while Penstock B, which connects to Tunnel B, will also be sealed off with concrete once the third chute is completed.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on June 20, 2014.

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