MANILA, Philippines – Philex Mining Corp. is prodding the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to immediately allow it to temporarily resume operations to enable it to fill the void in the compromised tailings pond no 3 of its copper-gold mine in Padcal, Benguet before the onset of the rainy season.
Philex earlier petitioned the MGB to be allowed to temporarily resume operations to produce fresh tailings to fill the void and increase the stability of the tailings pond.
The process called beaching was recommended by the foreign consultants hired by Philex for the rehabilitation of the tailings pond.
Because the tailings pond was designed to hold solids, 3.5 million tons of fresh tailings should be dumped into the ponds to push away the water from the dam. This will create what is called a beach.
It will take about three to four months to produce the volume of silt needed for beaching.
“We are requesting the MGB to lift the suspension to enable Philex to undergo rehabilitation before the rains come,” Philex president and chief operating officer Eulalio Austin Jr. said.
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Another option to fill the void in the tailings pond is to gather the spilled tailings from the contaminated waterways. However, this would be expensive and time consuming because the company would still have to install additional infrastructure such as roads and pumps in the mine site.
Libby Ricafort, Philex vice president for operations and Padcal resident manager, said the beaching was supposed to begin this month with the goal of finishing in June.
In a public hearing on the Padcal tailings spill incident held at the MGB head office in Quezon City yesterday, Philex officials and foreign consultants made a presentation on the rehabilitation plan for the compromised tailing facility.
Representatives from indigenous groups, employee groups and local government units also formally filed their petition with the MGB to allow Philex to temporarily resume operations.
In their petitions, the various groups said the continued closure of the mine is affecting their livelihood.
“We will fully take into consideration your petiition. It is clear to us that the supension order has an effect on your livelihood. We will always take into account the socio-economic effects of the situation,” Jasareno told indigenous group representatives upon receiving their petitions.
Outside the gates of the MGB compound, around a hundred Philex supporters held a protest demonstration to call for the lifting of the suspension order on the company.
In a ceremony called kanyaw, protesters slaughtered a pig and prayed for “enlightenment” on the part of the government to allow the company to temporarily resume operations.
Jasareno said that taking into consideration the petition of the company and the communities, the MGB would hand down its decision in a week.
Jasareno also said that as of the moment, no other options for filling the void in the tailings pond are being considered.