Philex hits back at DENR’s ‘trial by publicity’ on Padcal tailings leak
MANILA, Philippines—Philex Mining Corp. assured the public on Wednesday that it would fully restore its tailings (mine sediments) storage facility before resuming operations.
But Philex also hit back at the government, particularly the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, for the “trial by publicity” it employed against the company despite its transparency and quick response to the tailings leak, which was caused by heavy rains.
Mike Toledo, the Philex’s senior vice president for corporate affairs, said in a speech at the Mining Philippines 2012 Conference, that the company would not operate Padcal “until the integrity of the tailings storage facility is fully ensured.” In the meantime, the company would work to bring families affected by the spillage at Padcal Mine to, if not better than, their previous status, Toledo said.
Already, Philex has provided immediate assistance to about 45 families living near Padcal mine, Toledo said.
Toledo lamented the DENR’s recent media pronouncements about its supposed penalties connected to the tailings breach earlier in 2012 when the company itself had not been informed of the same. Toledo pointed out that “penalties” suggested that the company violated procedures to protect the environment when in fact the tailings leak was a “force majeure.”
The executive said it was “unfortunate” that Philex learned about the supposed penalties through the media, instead of a formal DENR report. He said the statement was “premature” and “a violation of due process” considering that the tailings breach was due to natural causes.
“We will verify the reports and act accordingly. We have the right to verify and present our position. The discharge was accidental as the rain volume was way above the recorded normal volume in the past. We practice responsible mining and we stand by what we have said that whatever obligations must be complied with, we will comply. It is just sad that as Filipino citizens and as taxpayers, we were not accorded due process,” Toledo said.
Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje earlier said Philex could be fined double or triple the P325 million earlier computed for the sediment spills at its Benguet facility because of six additional leaks. He said the DENR would impose a P200,000-a-day fine, ongoing since the accident occurred on August 2.
Philex earlier said it has started collecting and transporting silts from Balog Creek, where sediments from the Padcal mine tailings dam in Benguet province escaped to during the monsoon rains that triggered flooding in Luzon and some parts of Western Visayas.
The company has created silt traps and tramlines that are being used in its cleanup drive.
Operations at Padcal Mine have been suspended since August 1, when there was an accidental leak in the Tailings Pond No. 3 following heavy rains. Internal and external experts pronounced the water and sediment discharge as non-toxic and biodegradable. There were also no reports of fatalities or injuries as a result of the tailings leak.
Philex Mining said it has been taking what it called an “ecosystems approach” to cleaning up and rehabilitating the Balog Creek, which has been affected by the tailings leak from Padcal Mine. Toledo of Philex said this involved putting manpower, technical know-how, and funds into various measures focusing on aquatic, terrestrial (land), water resources management, and forging partnership with the local communities.
“This ecosystems approach could become a formal program by Philex Mining Corporation on Balog Creek,” Toledo said, adding that the company has also been engaging the communities near the Padcal mine site in the cleanup and rehabilitation of the affected waterway.
After cleaning up the silt off Balog Creek, Philex Mining said the next steps would be the restoration of Balog Creek, including the protection of riverbanks, the replanting of affected areas, the stocking of flora and fauna in aquatic and terrestrial areas and, eventually, the reintroduction of endemic species to the rehabilitated places.
The social aspect in the ecosystems approach would involve the assessment of impact on the lives and livelihood of residents in the communities near the mine site, besides partnering with the households in the cleanup and rehabilitation drive. The capacity-building training and livelihood projects that would be facilitated by Philex Mining in and for the communities could also fall under this approach.
“We will do everything in our capacity to assist the communities that have been affected by the spillage in Padcal Mine,” Toledo said.
Operations at Padcal Mine have been suspended since August 1, when there was an accidental leak in the Tailings Pond No. 3 following heavy rains. Internal and external experts pronounced the water and sediment discharge as non-toxic and biodegradable. There were also no reports of fatalities or injuries as a result of the tailings leak, Philex Mining said.
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