Philex Mining personnel were also not remiss in the performance of their duties
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has confirmed that Philex Mining Corp. had a system in place for the maintenance and monitoring of its tailings pond and secondary facilities during the Padcal accident, and that its personnel were diligent in the performance of their duties.
This according to Michael Toledo, senior vice-president for Corporate Affairs at Philex Mining, who stressed that historically unprecedented heavy rains brought about by typhoon Gener reached 331.80 millimeters (mm) at the site on Aug. 1, far exceeding by about 100 mm Padcal’s 50-year rainfall record of 234.50 mm.
“The findings came as no surprise because the company’s environmental management system, including the operation and maintenance of Tailings Pond No. 3, has long been ISO-compliant and -certified,” he said, emphasizing Philex Mining's ISO-14001 certification for years 2002, 2006, and 2008, and the latest certification issued on May 10, 2011.
Mr. Toledo also said that the MGB, which conducted on-site investigations, further found out that Philex personnel were not remiss in carrying out the company’s guidelines, standard operating and standard job procedures for the maintenance and operation of Tailings Pond No. 3 (TP3), in Benguet, where a force majeure caused the discharge of sediment on Aug. 1.
He added that the standard guidelines and procedures included those for the construction and maintenance of TP3’s dikes and benches, in order to ensure their integrity, protect against their erosion, and guarantee the impounding of tailings within the pond.
The procedures also covered those meant to ensure the integrity and strength of all concreting works done for TP3, as well as those for the inspection and maintenance of the same tailings pond and its appertunances, or associated structures and secondary facilities.
Mr. Toledo reiterated that Philex Mining is prepared to refute whatever penalties the government might impose on it in connection with the Padcal accident, saying the company should not be held accountable for something that was caused by force majeure.
PMC has been awaiting formal information from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which is set to release this week its decision on alleged company violations on the Aug. 1 accidental discharge of sediment at Padcal Mine, following heavy rains brought about by typhoons Ferdie and Gener.
“We are well prepared to review any decision on penalties that the DENR will release this week, and we will indeed contest it at a proper forum,” Mr. Toledo said. “Our officials have always been on top of the situation, acting accordingly and providing timely notices to regulators.”
He reiterated what he has been lamenting the past two weeks that Philex Mining hasn’t received yet any official communication from government on penalties, despite the fact that DENR Sec. Ramon Paje had told the media that PMC might be slapped with fines amounting to double or triple of DENR’s initial estimate of P325 million.
Mr. Toledo stressed that Philex Mining, which has responded quickly and decisively to the Padcal accident, will continue to fulfill its obligations stemming from the accident, such as the cleanup and rehabilitation of Balog Creek and its convergence area with Agno River, but will not pay punitive penalties such as fines.
“We shouldn’t be held liable for something that was caused by force majeure,” he said. “But we are willing—and, in fact—we have said repeatedly that we have the resources and capabilities to deal with all the remediation activities needed to address the Padcal accident.”
Already, Philex Mining has provided immediate assistance to about 45 families along Agno River whose livelihood has been affected by the accident. It has also engaged members of these families to work hand-in-hand with Philex Mining employee-volunteers in the cleanup and rehabilitation drive on the affected waterway.
Mr. Toledo said that Philex Mining promptly reported the accident to MGB as it voluntarily stopped operations at Padcal Mines at about 12:00 midnight of Aug. 1, paving the way for a full investigation at the mine site and its surrounding areas.
He added that Philex Mining has operated and maintained its Padcal Mines for 54 years without negligence, and that there have been no reports of injury or fatality as a result of the accidental discharge of non-toxic sediment at the mine site on Aug. 1.