The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has issued a notice to Philex Mining Corp., allowing them to continue operations while government regulators review all technical inputs submitted on rehabilitation of its compromised Tailings Storage Facility no. 3 (TSF3).
In a telephone interview, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje also said that the agency would refer Philex’s request to the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) for the final decision on the extension request.
“They are allowed to continue operations while we review all technical inputs, and their request for extension, and until such time that we have gotten the betting of the MICC,” Paje said.
The interagency body is expected to meet on July 16.
“We will cross the bridge when we get there,” Paje said when asked whether the MICC will be able to come up with a decision during the meeting.
On March 8, the government regulator allowed Padcal mine to resume operations, following a seven-month voluntary suspension of operations, in order to produce 25,000 cubic meters of fresh tailings daily for the filling and beaching process involving the urgent remediation of TSF3.
The suspension order stemmed from the accidental spill of tailings at the height of torrential rains in late July last year.
On June 21, Philex Mining President and CEO Eulalio Austin Jr. asked the MGB to allow the company to continue depositing fresh tailings at TSF3, in order to not hamper its urgent remediation and rehabilitation activities.
Philex said that it needs more time to raise the elevation of tailings in Padcal’s TSF3, and
allow water to naturally flow in mouth of the newly constructed open spillway.
The company has been conducting the beaching process over the past four months to fill with fresh tailings the massive conical void in the middle of its tailings facility and create a beach in the pond. Libby Ricafort, Philex vice president and resident manager of the Padcal mine, said that resumption of operations would allow them to “satisfy” and “promote” the long-term stability of the tailings facility.
“The restoration of the stability of our offset dike will need two years. We are protecting the condition of the offset dike, until the mine stops,” he said.
Ricafort, citing technical assessment by third-party experts hired by the company, said that the company has to reach a beach elevation of 608 meters above sea level to ensure the structural integrity of its TFS3.
To date, the company was only able to achieve 586 meters above sea level with Padcal producing at a maximum capacity of 25,000 to 26,000 tons of tailings daily.
“Raising the beach elevation at 608 meters will provide us a 1-percent slope, the natural deposition of the beach, to drain water from the offset dike to the mouth of the new spill way,” Ricafort explained.
“We need to provide a buffer for the water, and we need to keep the main embankment offset dike to be always dry,” he added.
James Konstantin Galvez