Philex to contest DENR charges on Padcal tailings breachBy Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The Philex Mining Corp. said on Wednesday it would challenge the findings used by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in imposing on the company hefty fines for the tailings dam breach at its Padcal mine site in Benguet province.
The country’s largest miner in terms of capitalization said in a statement that it would “review any decision on penalties that the DENR will release this week” regarding the tailings dam breach at the Padcal mine site in Benguet province and would “contest” it at a proper forum. Philex said its officials have always been on top of the situation, “acting accordingly and providing timely notices to regulators.”
The miner has been awaiting formal information from the DENR, which is set to release this week its decision on alleged company violations on the August 1 accidental discharge of sediment at the Padcal mine following heavy rains from typhoons Ferdie and Gener.
The company said the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) had confirmed there was a system in place for the maintenance and monitoring of its tailings pond and secondary facilities during the Padcal accident, and that Philex personnel were diligent in the performance of their duties.
Company vice president for corporate affairs Michael Toledo stressed that historically unprecedented heavy rains brought about by typhoon Gener reached 331.80 millimeters (mm) at the site on August 1, exceeding only by 88.30 mm Padcal’s 50-year rainfall record of 234.50 mm.
“The findings came as no surprise because the company’s environmental management system, including the operation and maintenance of Tailings Pond No. 3, has long been ISO-compliant and -certified,” Toledo said, noting the company’s ISO-14001 certification for years 2002, 2006, and 2008, and the latest certification issued on May 10, 2011.
Toledo said Philex would refute whatever penalties the government might impose on it in connection with the Padcal accident, saying the company should not be held accountable for something that was caused by force majeure.
He said Philex hasn’t received yet any official communication from government on penalties, even after Environment Secretary Ramon Paje told the media that Philex might be slapped with fines amounting to double or triple DENR’s initial estimate of P325 million.
Toledo stressed that Philex, which has responded quickly and decisively to the Padcal accident, would continue to fulfill its obligations stemming from the accident, such as the cleanup and rehabilitation of Balog Creek and its convergence area with Agno River, but would not pay punitive penalties such as fines.
“We shouldn’t be held liable for something that was caused by force majeure,” he said. “But we are willing—and, in fact, we have said repeatedly that we have the resources and capabilities to deal with all the remediation activities needed to address the Padcal accident.”
Already, Philex has provided immediate assistance to about 45 families along the Agno River whose livelihood has been affected by the accident. It has also engaged members of these families to work hand in hand with PMC employee-volunteers in the cleanup and rehabilitation drive on the affected waterway.
Toledo said that Philex promptly reported the accident to MGB as it voluntarily stopped operations at Padcal Mine at about 12 midnight of August 1, paving the way for a full investigation at the mine site and its surrounding areas.
He added that Philex has been operating and maintaining its Padcal Mine for 54 years without negligence, and that there have been no reports of injury or fatality as a result of the accidental discharge of non-toxic sediment at the mine site on August 1.
Short URL: http://business.inquirer.net/?p=84088