Philex wants back ‘poster boy’ role for responsible mining

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WITH its operations now back to normal, Philex Mining Corp. reaffirms its commitment to promote the greater good through adherence to responsible mining, community development, and state regulations.

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Eulalio Austin Jr., Philex chief executive and president, vowed to restore the company’s image as the mining industry’s “poster boy” for responsible mining even as he thanked stakeholders for their continued support in the wake of the challenges brought about by its Padcal mine’s tailings spill incident in Benguet.

To recall, on Aug. 1, 2012, some 20 million tons of water and sediment were discharged from one of the two underground tunnels of the mine’s tailings storage facility following torrential rains. This contaminated the Agno River and Balog Creek. Mine operations were immediately suspended the next day when the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) issued a cease and desist order (CDO).

On Aug. 27, 2014, the MGB lifted its CDO after the “issues emanating from the tailings spill incident have been substantially addressed to warrant the resumption of the normal operation of Philex under the existing mining contracts with the government.”

Among the considerations for the lifting of the CDO was the company’s payment of P1.034 billion to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on February 18, 2013 as penalty for violating the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

Philex also settled with the Pollution Adjudication Board by paying the penalty of P188.6 million for its environmental obligation arising from the tailings spill incident.

Under the company’s environmental policy, Philex said it remains committed to continuously improve its operations, to minimize adverse environmental impact, to comply with applicable legislations and other requirements, and to promote environmental awareness and commitment among its workers at all levels.

Austin stressed that several things still need to be done, however, including cost-cutting measures and paying off loans, in the midst of low metal prices in the world market.

For his part, Baguio City Bishop Carlito Cenzon lauded the Philex leadership for their contribution in developing communities where the firm operates, as well as for the company’s efforts to protect the welfare of the people.

“Philex Mining must continue working for the greater good. The advantages that the company offers are much more than the disadvantages,” Cenzon said, adding that Philex must spread its blessings across the towns of Tuba and Itogon, which host the Padcal operations.

Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan also expressed hope that Philex will continue its operations for the next 20 years, adding that the country’s biggest gold-and-copper producer has helped a lot in the development of their community and businesses.

For the first half of the year, Philex spent about P13 million for its social projects in the outlying communities through the company’s Social Development and Management Program.

This year, Philex allotted P86.5 million for these projects – including livelihood, education and health programs.

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