Government regulators are expected to officially lift this month the sanctions against Philex Mining Corp. after the company completed requirements for the rehabilitation of its Padcal copper-gold mine in Benguet, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje told reporters that Philex was able to complete all regulatory requirements following the payment of a P188.6-million penalty under Republic Act 9275, or Clean Water Act of 2004.
“For the environmental aspect, the payment [for violating the Clean Water Act]completes the penalty imposed against Philex,” Paje told reporters on Wednesday.
“If we merge that to the earlier decision of the Technical Working Group (TWG) of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), then it will boil down to one decision,” Paje added.
Earlier, the TWG-MICC, the interagency body tasked to oversee the rehabilitation and cleanup operations at the Padcal mine, said that Philex was able to complete all the regulatory requirements for the company to resume normal operations.
The TWG-MICC, led by Secretary Neric Acosta, presidential assistant for the environment, said that Philex has addressed all its responsibilities, particularly on the impact of the tailings spill on the surrounding areas of Padcal.
“The Technical Working Group on Environmental Protection and Legislation finds that Philex Mining Corp., based on the understanding of the nature of the incident and the direct and indirect interventions surrounding it, has undertaken the remedial measures in accordance with the rehabilitation and cleanup plan,” the MICC said.
Paje said that the MICC would meet within this month to deliberate on Philex’s appeal for the permanent resumption of operations at Padcal.
“Hopefully, by then we can come up with a final decision,” Paje said.
Philex is currently operating under a temporary permit as part of the remedial measures at the Tailings Storage Facility No. 3 (TSF3). It will be recalled that the company voluntarily suspended operations on August 1, 2012, following the accidental discharge of nontoxic water and sediment from the pond.
It took the company over a year of complete rehabilitation and cleanup operations to restore areas affected by the tailings spill from its Tailings Storage Facility No.3.
Under the immediate action plan, Philex was able to complete the closure of Penstock A and its tunnel, as well as the decommissioning of Penstock B, which will be replaced by an open spillway.
Philex has also addressed social responsibilities, particularly to communities affected by the tailings spill.
The company also passed technical analysis, including heavy metal content in sediments, water and wildlife within the affected areas.
Majority of the rehabilitation was conducted on the upstream side of Padcal mine—including the construction of the open spillway, cleanup of the Agno River and Balog creek, as well as the rehabilitation of the tailings dam.