Benguet Corp takes steps to contain tailings leak

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BENGUET Corp., the country’s oldest mining firm, said on Wednesday it is already taking steps to resolve and contain the tailings leak at its Antamok mine in Benguet Province even as it assured the public that the tailings from its impoundment area are non-toxic and safe.

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The miner blamed unregulated small-scale mining operations for the tailings leak at Antamok.

In a statement, Benguet Corp. said it informed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on October 27 that an intermittent leak of mine tailings was discovered following regular inspection conducted by the company after heavy rains brought about by Typhoon Lawin (international name: Haima).

“There has been no reported damage to private property or harm to any individuals,” Benguet Corp. said, assuring the community that it continues to implement measures to resolve the situation and contain the leak.

According to the miner, the leak occurred in the drain tunnel of the underground Antamok mine, which has not been in operation since 1989.

“The Antamok mine tailings area serves as catchment for mine tailings from small-scale miners in the upstream. There are rampant unregulated small-scale mining activities in the area,” the company added.

Since the discovery of the leak, the company said it has mobilized its workforce and equipment to contain the leak and has initiated cleanup operations.

It has also dispatched its workforce, technical teams and equipment to the site in coordination with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Environmental Management Bureau and local government unit to undertake preemptive measures, including construction of containment dams downstream of Liang River and cleanup of spilled tailings.

The company has also constructed a counter-drive to plug the Antamok drain tunnel and divert the surface inflow water away from the area.

The Antamok open pit mine has not operated since 1998 while the Antamok underground mine has stopped operations since 1989. Both have been under continuous care and maintenance, the miner said.

Technical studies have been going on for possible tailings reprocessing project and the conversion of the open pit to a water reservoir for bulk water projects, engineered sanitary landfill and waste to energy project.

In a related development, Benguet Corp. told the Philippine Stock Exchange that it has received the mine audit report recommending the stoppage of operations at its Acupan Mine in Itogon, Benguet.

The stoppage order, based on the DENR audit, was due to the operation of a prohibited controlled facility, maintaining and storing of toxic and hazardous materials without accreditation as a Treatment, Storage and Disposal (TSD) facility, and failure to install air pollution control devices and apply for a permit to operate, as well as non-rehabilitation of the Antamok area.

The company is expected to submit its comments and explanations to the DENR in the next seven days.

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