The country’s biggest gold producer, Philex Mining Corp. (Philex), appealed to government regulators for the permanent lifting of their temporary permit to operate after completing requirements for the rehabilitation of its Padcal copper-gold mine in Benguet.
Philex Chairman Manuel Pangilinan said that they have already filed an application before the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for the permanent resumption of operations at Padcal, after more than a year of rehabilitation and clean up operations in the areas affected by the tailings leak from its tailings storage facility No. 3 (TSF3).
“We have already filed an application with the government for the permanent lifting [of temporary operations], and we are just waiting [for the results of the review by MGB],” Pangilinan told reporters.
Earlier, MGB has given Philex clearance to continue operations beyond the four-month temporary permit that expired in July 2013.
This gave the company more time to continue rehabilitation of its TSF3, which broke down at the height of torrential rains in August 2012, pending the final review by the interagency Mining Industry Coordinating Council.
Eulalio Austin, Philex president and chief executive, said majority of the rehabilitation were conducted on the upstream side of Padcal mine—including the construction of the open spillway, clean up of the Agno River and Balog creek, as well as the rehabilitation of the tailings dam.
Austin said that they are also discussing with the National Power Corp. (Napocor) amicable rehabilitation plans for the San Roque reservoir.
“Part of the rehabilitation is the clean up at the confluence of the Agno River and that is a matter that we are discussing also with the National Power Corp.,” Austin said.
Napocor earlier demanded that Philex “immediately” remove the mine wastes from San Roque dam’s reservoir or pay over P6.4 billion to enable the power company to restore the area’s condition to that found before the August 2012 tailing spill.
Napocor also ordered the immediate removal of deposited 13.513 million cubic meters of mine wastes from its reservoir or payment of P6.418 billion to enable the power company to remove the waste and to restore the reservoir to its condition prior to the incident.
Also, the power company asked Philex Mining to pay P6.266 million a year for opportunity loss while the mine wastes were not yet removed from the reservoir, as well as the compensation for damaged vegetation in the amount of P1.04 million and penalty of P500,000.
San Roque dam serves as a filtering facility for Agno River before it reaches the towns of Pangasinan province.
But instead of dredging the tailings that were deposited to the San Roque dam reservoir, Austin said that they are offering substitute solutions, which includes reforestation efforts to limit the projected natural deposition of sediments.
In a related development, Austin said that they are also continuing informal discussions with the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB), led by Department of Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio, over the company’s violation of Republic Act 9275 or the Clean Water Act of 2004.