Padcal, Benguet: Philex Mining Corp. said that it will ask government regulators to extend its mining operations at the Padcal copper-gold mine to fill the remaining void in its tailing pond.
Libby Ricafort, Philex vice president for operations and Padcal resident manager, said that extension of its operations is necessary to raise the elevation of the beach being created in its compromised tailings storage facility no. 3 (TSF3)—in order to achieve the desired level of safety.
Philex was able to establish a beach level of 584 meters above sea level with Padcal producing 25,000 tons to 26,000 tons of tailings daily.
“The elevations of the beach being created along the dike must be raised to the 592 meters above sea level, based on the initial assessment of our experts,” Ricafort said.
The official, however, said that the 592-meter target is “not achievable” at the current rate of mining operations.
Government regulators allowed Padcal to resume operations on March 8, seven months after Philex Mining voluntarily stopped production at the mine site due to the accident, in order to produce tailings for its filling and beaching process to rehabilitate TSF3.
To raise the elevation of the beach, at least four million tons more of fresh tailings would have to be dumped into the pond.
During the four-month resumption of operations, the company intended to produce 3.5 million tons of fresh tailings. Nearing the end of the deadline on July 8, the company has produced 2.4 million tons of tailings for beaching.
“We will ask for an extension, we need more time,” Ricafort said without specifying a time frame for an extension.
“It is necessary for us to continue operating so that we will be able to raise the safety factor of the tailings pond and will ensure the safety of the mine until the end of its lifespan,” he added.
No request yet
Philex Mining has yet to file a request to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
The company has made three shipments of concentrates, estimated at P800 million to P1 billion, since the resumption of operations in March.
Meanwhile, Ricafort said that the company is also preparing for the construction of TSF4 at a still undetermined cost.
He also said that the construction of the P327-million two-chute spillway is on track, with the first chute finished and the second chute seen completed by June 20.
Once completed, the spillway can channel as much as 1,000 millimeters of rain over a 24-hour period.
Philex has also made significant progress in the cleanup of sediment from the Balog Creek and is preparing for cleanup in its convergence with the Agno River.
To restore the natural condition of the Balog Creek, the company has engaged a company specializing in the breeding and use of Vertiver grass that thrives in highly mineralized soil.
Vertiver is used to prevent soil erosion because of its long roots. Along with Vertiver grass, tilapia fingerlings are also placed in the Balog Creek as bioindicators of pollution.
The company earlier said that as of April, the 2.5-kilometer Balog Creek has been 98 percent cleared of silt.
It will take the company, however, a month to complete the cleanup of the convergence of the Agno River and Balog Creek, as it still has to install compressors, vacuum pumps and pipes to pump the silt back to TSF3.
The company is also awaiting the government permits for the building of roads and installation of customized equipment purchased from abroad.
With the cleanup operations and rehabilitation nearing completion, Philex remained hopeful that the government would reinstate the company’s full operations before the year ends.