MANILA, Philippines – The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has allowed Philex Mining Corp. to resume normal operations of its copper-gold mine in Benguet as the company has satisfied the rehabilitation work and penalties required by the government for the massive tailings spill that occurred in 2012.
In a letter to Philex Mining president Eulalio Austin Jr., MGB director Leo Jasareno said issues emanating from the incident “have been substantially addressed to warrant the resumption of the normal operation” of the mine under its existing mining contract with the government.
“The foregoing premises considered, the cease and desist order dated Aug. 2, 2012 of this office is hereby permanently lifted, to allow Philex Mining Corp. to resume mining operations permanently in its Padcal mine in Tuba, Benguet, subject to compliance with the terms and conditions of the pertinent Mineral Production Sharing Agreements and the provisions of Republic Act 7942 and its implementing rules and regulation,” said Jasareno.
On Aug. 1, 2012 – following torrential rains-some 20 million tons of water and sediment were discharged from one of the two underground tunnels of the mine’s tailings storage facility (TSF) No. 3, contaminating the Agno River and Balog Creek.
Mine operations were immediately suspended the next day until March 8, 2013 when Philex was allowed to temporarily resume operations to carry out rehabilitation works on its compromised tailings storage facility No.3 and cleanup of the mines.
The company was initially allowed to temporarily resume operations for four months but later asked for an extension to complete rehabilitation works that included the so-called beaching process to fill the void in in the tailings pond and the construction of an open spillway that replaced the broken penstock.
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Since the occurrence of the tailings spill, the company had settled fines of P1.034 billion imposed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for violation of the Mining Act of 1995 and P188.6 million imposed by the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) in violation of the Clean Water Act of 2004.
Jasareno said the company has completely sealed the beached portion of the compromised tailings storage pond and that excess water from the pond is now being discharged using the new open spillway.
He noted that the MGB also received formal requests form various organizations for the lifting of the CDO. These include the indigenous peoples of Tuba and Itogon, Benguet and San Manuel and San Nicolas, Pangasinan; Trade Union Congress of the Philippines Party List; St. Paul’s Parish of Upper Poblacion, Tuba, Benguet; Sangguniang Bayan of Itogon and Tuba, Benguet; and Barangay Councils of Brgys. Dalupirip and Ampucai, Itogon, Benguet.