Philex says Padcal cleared for full operations by PAB
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) has lifted a cease-and-desist order it had imposed on Philex Mining Corporation due to the massive tailings spill that occurred in its Padcal copper-gold mine in Itogon, Benguet, Philex reported Wednesday, June 18.
The decision helps pave the way for the permanent resumption of operations at Padcal, said Philex. It comes after Philex paid the fines imposed by government agencies concerned and completed the cleanup of affected rivers.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), however, has yet to approve the mine’s return to regular operations.
The PAB decision was made June 9 and received by Philex June 18 from the Baguio City-based regional office of the Environment Management Bureau, which serves as secretariat in the adjudication of pollution cases.
“The undersigned hereby issues a formal lifting order in favor of the respondent. This shall effectively remove this case from the dockets of PAB without prejudice to future action(s) that may be commended against respondent as may be warranted by circumstances or by law,” the PAB resolution stated.
PAB is a quasi-judicial body not covered by the authority of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), which regulates the mining industry.
All the effluent and water samples collected from the Agno River and Balog creek are now within the water quality criteria set by the government, Environment Undersecretary for Policy and PAB Presiding Officer Demetrio Ignacio said, citing the EMB report.
“The waterways are now cleared of silt. The water quality is also now within the standards set by the government,” Demetrio said in a phone interview.
Philex’s compliance to urgent remediation measures for Padcal’s tailings storage facility no. 3 (TSF 3) was also cited by PAB in its 2-page resolution.
In August 2012, Padcal's TSF 3 collapsed amid torrential rains, spilling tons of sediment into the Agno River and Balog Creek.
The mine was ordered closed by the government after the spill. Philex was also slapped with heavy fines, which it already paid.
It was allowed to partially resume operations in 2013 so it could rehabilitate its compromised tailings facility.
More rehab work
MGB, however, has yet to approve the permanent resumption of Padcal’s operations.
MGB Director Leo Jasareno said Philex would still have to complete the required rehabilitation work imposed by the bureau before it could be allowed to resume regular operations.
“The rehabilitation work still has to be reviewed,” Jasareno said.
Nonetheless, Philex SVP for Corporate Affairs Michael Toledo welcomed the PAB decision, saying the company would continue its environmental stewardship advocacy involving various forestation and reforestation activities, the rehabilitation of TSF 3, and the completion of an open spillway.
Philex is building a P500-million open spillway that will replace TSF 3’s underground drainage system.
TSF 3’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, Philex said.
Philex earlier said it was scouring the environs of the Padcal mine for viable deposits to extend its life span beyond 2020. – Rappler.com