- Category: Regions
10 Feb 2013
ITOGON, Benguet—The immediate approval of Philex Mines’ request for the government to allow it to resume its mining operations will determine the safety of the dikes in its tailings pond 3.
Eduardo Aratas, Philex-Benguet legal officer, said the company’s request for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to allow it to resume its mining operations temporarily is essential in the rehabilitation effort that is being undertaken.
He said “the tailings pond is intended for tailings, which right now is accumulating water.”
To be able to remove the water, the foreign consultants the company hired after the accident recommended the filling up of the dam with tailings and pushing the water away from the dike, leading it instead to the spillway and out to the Balog River.
On August 2, 2012, millions of metric tons of waste from Philex’s Padcal mine had been washed into local rivers.
Prior to the accident, water from the dam exits to the penstock and down to the Balog River. With the company sealing the penstock to prevent tailings from spilling together with the water, there was no water egress, the reason water accumulated in the pond.
He said the longer water stayed in the tailings pond, the higher the risk that the main dike would give way. The dam was protected by a main dike and after it, four minor dikes also served as support.
For them to fill the void in the dam with tailings and be able to remove the water, they need at least 2.5 million tons of tailings, which can be produced when Philex operates in full capacity for a period of four to five months.
This remedial measure is apart from the ongoing bagging activities of tailings and the rehabilitation at the Balog creek.
“This is the only way they can fill the void and take out the water, which is a safety measure and a part of the rehabilitation plan that the company submitted to [the] DENR, needing approval before resuming operation,” the Philex lawyer said. “We do not want to act on this without approval because the cease-and-desist order remains effective.”
Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Cordillera Safety and Environment Division chief Felizardo Gacad said, “Time is of the essence here. We hope that the national office give its nod as soon as possible before the rainy season starts.”
He said the accidental discharge of tailings from pond 3 of Philex was due to continuous heavy rains in August 2012.
DENR and MGB Cordillera have endorsed the plan and request of the company to the national office sometime December, but has yet to receive comment from the head office of the government regulatory agency.
While awaiting approval, Philex-Benguet has brought back employees inside the mine and the mill to be able to immediately resume operation if the DENR national office approves the request for the resumption of the operation.
The company has stopped its operation following the accident in August 2012 and assigned its office and underground employees to the cleanup and rehabilitation activities at the Balog creek.