Philex, progressive group agree tailings dam collapse spells disaster

Northern Dispatch

BAGUIO CITY — A top official of the Philex Mining Corporation admitted that a greater disaster would happen if tailings pond 3 (TP3) collapses.

Earlier, leaders of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) called for the decommissioning of Philex mines’ TP3, pointing out that the dam has outlived its lifespan and poses greater disaster should it collapse. The group said if the tailings dam collapses now, it will cause irreversible damage to the Agno River and may cover a major area if not all of Pangasinan with silt.

CPA Deputy Secretary General Abigail Anongos in an earlier interview reiterated that Philex should not be allowed to resume operations until it has a new tailings dam. Anongos said that there is no better facility to contain the silt recovered from the Balog Creek but the TP3. She added that putting back the silt to TP3 is the most logical thing to do as the said facility was built mainly to contain mine wastes.

Philex Vice President for Operations Libby Ricafort said during the media walk through Balog Creek, January 23: “Kung bumigay ang dam, uwian na.” (If the dam collapses, it’s goodbye)

Ricafort pointed out that preventing a dam collapse is the main reason why they submitted a request to resume operations to the MGB. He added that they need to resume operations to be able to remove the water in the crater at TP3 created by the silt spill. He said they will use the mine wastes produced during the resumed operations to displace the water and seal the crater.

Ricafort further explained that water if the water would not be removed, the dike might collapse, which may result to greater disaster. He said they will need 3.5 million metric tons of mine waste to seal the crater at TP3. He added that given the 25,000 metric tons of mine wastes produced per day during regular mine operations, it will take the company around five months to fill the crater.

The Philex official said that sealing the crater should be done before the rainy days sets in. He explained that the accumulated water is very near the main dike and that the water will seep to the dike and might cause a collapse. He pointed out that the dam was made to hold solid silt and not water.

“Let us keep our fingers crossed that the dike will hold,” he added.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Cordillera endorsed Philex’s request for a temporary lifting of the ban on their operations issued after the tailings pond 3 (TP3) failed and spewed 20 million metric tons of mine waste into the Balog Creek and Agno River in 2012.

MGB Mines and Environment Safety Division chief engineer Zards Gacad said MGB Cordillera favorably endorsed Philex proposal to the national office and has been waiting for the latter’s decision.

New fines

In a related development, Philex is slapped with another fine by the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) after it recently agreed to cooperate with the MGB on the P1.034 billion fine over the 2012 tailings pond 3 spill.

National news reports showed that Philex received on January 23 a November 28, 2012 PAB resolution ordering the company to cease and desist from using tailings pond 3 and to pay P92.8 million fine over a violation of the Clear Water Act.

The mine spill in August of 2012 discharged over 20 million metric tons of mine wastes and polluted the Balog Creek and Agno River.

The same reports showed that the PAB P92.8 million fine is broken down as follows: first violation, P15.2 million covering the period of August 3, 2012 to October 17, 2012 “the date before the company complied with the Effluent Standards”; second violation, P30.4 million covering the period from August 3, 2012 to October 17, 2012 covering 76 days for two counts of violation of the Water Quality Criteria per section 27a of the Clean Water Act; and third violation: initial amount of P47.2 million covering the period August 3, 2012 to Nov. 28, 2012 for two counts of violation of Section 27.a of the Clean Water Act.

The PAB order also gave Philex 15 days upon receipt of the notice to comply and stated that a fine of P200,000 per day will be added should it fail to pay the fees.

Philex Senior Vice President for Finance in one of his interviews stated that the company has still to evaluate its position on the new PAB fines.

Meanwhile, in an earlier press release, Philex Senior Vice President for
Corporate Affairs Michael Toledo said the company welcomes the MGB’s decision to use the P1.034 billion fine for the rehabilitation of the affected areas and compensate affected families.

MGB Acting Director Leo Jasareno explained that the money will be remitted to the Mine Wastes and Tailings Reserve Fund which will be used to compensate for the damages caused by the spill and rehabilitate the affected areas identified by the agency.Northern Dispatch / Reposted by

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