Philex vows to work with gov’t on Padcal

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01:32 AM January 18th, 2013

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A miner monitors quarrying operations at Philex Mining’s old open pit mine in Benguet. Philex Mining Corp. promised to cooperate with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which ordered the company to pay the P1.03-billion fine for tailings leak at its mining site in Benguet. PHOTO BY ELMER KRISTIAN DAUIGOY/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

MANILA, Philippines—Gold and copper producer Philex Mining Corp. promised to cooperate with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which ordered the company to pay the P1.03-billion fine for tailings leak at its mining site in Benguet.

The company, led by businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, also said it would submit a work plan as the basis for using the fund.

“We will work closely with the MGB on this, as we welcome its decision that the amount to be paid would be used for remediation and rehabilitation of the affected areas,” said Michael Toledo, the mining company’s senior vice president.

On Tuesday, MGB acting director Leo Jasareno affirmed the bureau’s earlier decision ordering the Pangilinan-led mining company to pay the government P1.03 billion following the Aug. 1, 2012, accident.

“We maintained the earlier decision that the mining company was negligent and the August incident was not a case of force majeure,” Jasareno said in an interview.

According to Jasareno, the money would be made payable to MGB and remitted to the Mine Wastes and Tailings Reserve Fund.

The fund will then be used to compensate for the damages caused by the accident and for the rehabilitation of the affected areas as may be determined by MGB.

In earlier interviews, Philex said it had started a 26-week cleanup of the Balog creek near its Padcal mine. The company estimated the cleanup to cost P1 billion.

“The details of how the P1 billion will be spent, we still don’t know. But since October last year, we have spent money for the cleanup, hired foreign and local consultants and experts,” Toledo said.

Toledo said they still planned to reconcile the figures based on their work plan.

Philex Mining voluntarily suspended operations at its Padcal mine in Benguet last Aug. 1, when its Tailings Pond No. 3 in Itogon discharged sediment following back-to-back typhoons. The leaks brought sediments from the tailing ponds flowing into the Balog River, a tributary of the Agno River, which is connected to the San Roque Dam in Pangasinan.

Philex targets to complete the rehabilitation by April this year. “We have been very consistent with our position. We will not run away from our obligations,” Toledo said.

Pangilinan, who sits as Philex chairman, noted that they were now agreeable with the fine “provided that the funds [will be used] for the rehabilitation program, which we have submitted to the government last year.”

“As far as I am told, the penalty we’ll pay could be used to fund the rehabilitation cost of the Baloc Creek and the river, that’s my understanding,” Pangilinan said on the sidelines of the International Electric Research Exchange-Technological Issues and Solutions Asia Meeting 2013 yesterday.

The Mining Act of 1995 imposes a penalty of P50-a-metric ton of tailings “discharged into areas other than the approved tailings disposal area.”

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