Temporary resumption of Padcal operations sought

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MANILA, Philippines—Listed gold and copper producer Philex Mining Corp. said on Wednesday that a temporary resumption of operations at its Padcal mine in Benguet was needed to keep the structural integrity of the mine’s tailings pond.

In a public hearing on Wednesday, the first since the tailings spill at its mining site in August last year, Philex officials said the company needed to produce some 3.5 million MT of fresh tailings to fill up the void in its Tailings Storage Facility 3 (TSF3).

The mine facility spilled 20 million MT of tailings to two water bodies connected to the San Roque Dam in Pangasinan—the Balog creek and Agno River—costing the company P1 billion in penalty for violating the Mining Act of 1995.

Mike Gowan of Golder Associates, an engineering firm contracted by Philex, told officials of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the mining stakeholders that filling up the void was a necessary measure to bring back the original condition of the TSF3 and “keep the upstream communities safe.”

“This is to prevent a geotechnical failure,” Gowan said, warning of a possible flooding in nearby areas once rainwater started threatening the stability of the TSF3.

Libby Ricafort, Philex vice president for operations and resident manager of Padcal mine, said there were no other alternatives but to resume operations. “There are no other options. We are already running out of time,” Ricafort said, adding that fixing the facility would take three to four months.

The temporary operations would cost Philex another P2 billion.

For his part, Philex president and chief operating officer Eulalio Austin said the company was going out of its way to implement a long-term remediation plan.

“We have to take advantage of the dry season. Rehabilitation works should be finished before the start of heavy rains,” Austin said.

In support of the mining company, Philex employees and labor groups staged a protest action in front of the MGB office where the public hearing was being held.

Employees of Philex had called on the MGB to allow the company to resume operations.

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