Proof of compliance to environmental obligations noted

By Butch Franco

Philex Mining Corp. today received an order from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) granting the full operations of its gold-and-copper production at Padcal mine, in Benguet, as the government regulator permanently lifted a cease-and-desist order issued after a 2012 tailings-leak accident.  

In a two-page letter, dated Aug. 27, the MGB stressed Philex Mining•€™s compliance to its environmental obligations, such as payments of required fees, the carrying out of immediate remediation measures, and the submission of proof on the safety and integrity of its tailings dam. It also mentioned the formal requests from various groups in favor of the company.  

€œThe above facts show that 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,•€ MGB Director Leo Jasareno said in the letter addressed to Philex Mining CEO and President Eulalio Austin, Jr.  

Manuel V. Pangilinan, chairman of Philex Mining, said, •€œWe are delighted that the government has taken careful notice of our efforts as its partner toward environmental protection and economic development through responsible mining. This has made us more resolute in our adherence to sustainable development.•€  

The MGB also noted Philex Mining•€™s successful implementation of its Rehabilitation and Cleanup Plan at the areas affected by the accident, including the sealing off of Tailings Storage Facility No. 3•€™s penstock system, or underground tunnel drainage, and replacing this with an open spillway, which can handle 1,500 millimeters of rain at any given time.  

€œThe foregoing premises considered, the Cease and Desist Order dated 02 August 2012 of this Office is hereby permanently lifted, to allow Philex Mining Corporation to resume mining operations •€¦ subject to compliance with the terms and conditions of the pertinent Mineral Production Sharing Agreements and the provisions of Republic Act No. 7942 and its Implementing Rules ad Regulations,•€ it added.  

Mr. Austin stressed Philex Mining•€™s commitment for sustainable development, adding, •€œWe are grateful to our employees, outlying communities, and all other stakeholders for their support and hard work to make us continue being a responsible miner.•€  

The company•€™s SVP for Corporate Affairs, Michael Toledo, said the company is always more than happy to continue working with the government on environmental protection and nation-building through responsible mining, including •€œour forestation and reforestation projects,•€ which have harvested a number of awards.  

Philex Mining had voluntarily suspended operations immediately after its TSF3, in the Benguet town of Itogon, discharged nontoxic water and sediment onto the Balog Creek, a tributary of the Agno River, on Aug. 1, 2012, following historically unprecedented rains brought about by two successive typhoons. It resumed production only starting from March 8, 2013 based on a four-month temporary lifting order issued by government and which was extended indefinitely afterwards.

The company has abided by government requirements for the resumption of its operations at Padcal mine, including payments of P188.6 million as environmental obligation to the Pollution Adjudication Board, in relation to Republic Act 9275, otherwise known as the Clean Water Act, last June 5, and P1.034 billion to the MGB, on Feb. 18, 2013, as fees over the accidental discharge of sediment.