Philex-Napocor tackle watershed reforestation

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Philex Mining Corp. said it has started talks with the National Power Corp. (NPC) over possible remediation measures to be conducted in watershed areas affected by the tailings leak from the Padcal copper gold mine two years ago.

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Manuel Agcaoili, Philex senior vice president and Padcal resident manager for operations, said NPC has agreed to sit down with them and identify parts of the land at the government-controlled watershed to be reforested by PMC.

Agcaoili said that the reforestation program would cover 500 hectares over the next five years, starting with an initial 100 hectares this year. The area identified was within the San Roque Dam’s critical watershed near Padcal mine’s Tailings Storage Facility No.3 in Itogon, Benguet.

To recall, the accidental discharge at the TSF3 resulted in more than 13.5 million cubic meters of mine wastes being deposited in the San Roque reservoir.

NPC had demanded that Philex remove the mine wastes from the reservoir and reinstate the area’s condition prior to the August 2012 tailings spill.

Instead of removing the deposited sediments, Philex proposed to undertake amicable rehabilitation plans, including massive tree planting in the watershed areas surrounding the dam to slow down the projected natural erosion in the area.

San Roque Dam serves as a filtering facility for Agno River before it reaches the towns of Pangasinan Province.

NPC owns the San Roque Dam, operated under the San Roque Multipurpose Project, which was implemented by San Roque Power Corp. under a power-purchase agreement with the state-run corporation.

Created early last year as part of Philex Mining’s preparation to intensify its reforestation effort in Itogon, the proposed tree planting activity must be approved by and carried out in cooperation with the NPC.

Padcal’s Environment Quality Monitoring and Enhancement Department (EQMED) said the company would hire seasonal workers from the outlying communities—host and neighboring villages—for the project.

Part of Philex Mining’s CSR, or corporate social responsibility program, the environmental endeavor also involves the planting of forest and fruit-bearing trees, and targets 100 hectares every year starting from 2014, or until 2021 to include a three-year maintenance period.

The EQMED said that it takes three years to reforest 100 hectares, with some parts of the maintenance phase of the preceding batch overlapping with the planting and maintenance of the succeeding one, and so on.

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