THE Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)-Cordillera has recommended that Benguet Corporation (BC) in Itogon, Benguet must pay a fine of P24 million for polluting the rivers of Liang, Ambalanga and Agno.
The EMB-Cordillera said that on October 27 and 28, it was reported that pressure from the accumulated water at the open pit caused outbursts that released at least 50,000 metric tons of silt into the Liang River that converges at the river of Ambalanga before flowing into the Agno river.
The P24 million covers the penalties only from October 27 to November 15.
”The BC will continue to be fined on a daily basis until they finish removing the mine tailings that spilled to the rivers due to a breach at the old Antamok open pit,” EMB Cordillera Director Reynaldo Digamo said.
The recommendation will be forwarded to the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB), which will ultimately decide on BC’s penalties, and where the BC can also make an appeal.
Digamo explained that the job of the EMB is to find probable cause and forward their findings and recommendations to the PAB, which will evaluate and decide on the case.
”The fine is computed according to the provisions of the Clean Water Act, which provides that the erring company be charged P200,000 per day,” he said.
EMB officials explained that if a company violates the Clean Air Act on three counts, the fine would be tripled.
On Monday, the water level at the old mine tunnels was at a standstill as the volume of water going out is equivalent to the water coming in.
Digamo said the company is yet to find where the water is coming from and that the source of the accumulated water at the old mine site must be removed before the breach could be plugged.
BC officials said they have already hired a consultancy firm to locate the source of the water flooding the old mine site and that it has started building a drainage canal direct to the penstock to increase water discharge.
On November 7, the tailings spilling into the river were already contained but there was still a minimal discharge of mine tailings from the company’s tailings pond.
According to the EMB, the mine tailings flowing out from the old Antamok open pit are diverted to a temporary containment area to prevent them from flowing into the river and that a temporary containment area has been built.