What Went Before: Philex Mining leak


Philex Mining Corp. voluntarily shut down its Padcal operations on Aug. 1, when an accidental discharge of water and sediment was discovered at its tailing pond in Itogon, Benguet province, amid heavy rains from Typhoon “Gener” (international name: Saola).

A tailings dam is the repository of all chemicals and sediments disposed of in the course of mine operations.

Allaying public fears, the firm said the discharge from the leak contained nontoxic water and sediments.

The company also said it deployed a cleanup crew at the affected waterways of the Agno River and tapped domestic and foreign consultants to develop a rehabilitation plan.

Following the leak, which was stopped “in less than 48 hours,” Environment Secretary Ramon Paje told the media that under national mining laws, Philex could be fined with at least P325 million for discharging up to 6.5 million tons of sedimentation.

Under the Mining Act of 1995, each ton of waste spilled shall correspond to a P50 fine.

Paje later revised his estimates before the press, saying the firm’s penalty could run up to over P1 billion because of six additional spills in its facility.

Mike Toledo, Philex Mining Corp. senior vice president for corporate affairs, described the penalties as “premature and a violation of due process,” and hit Paje for making media pronouncements about the firm’s penalties when the company itself had not been informed of it.

Toledo said  the incident was due to “force majeure” because of “historically unprecedented heavy rains” that reached 331.80 millimeters (mm), exceeding only by 88.30 mm Padcal’s 50-year rainfall record of 234.50 mm.

On Sept. 26, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said it wrote a letter to the mining firm, demanding P1.034 billion in penalties for over 20 million metric tons of mine tailings that spilled from Philex’s facility.

Philex contested the penalty saying the incident was something beyond its control.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) confirmed that based on two sets of tests in August and September, fish in the San Roque Dam were free from heavy metal contamination.

BFAR said the fish contained traces of arsenic and mercury but these did not exceed safe levels.

On Nov. 21, the MGB denied Philex’s appeal and ordered the firm to settle its penalty within 45 days.

MGB Director Leo Jasareno said Philex “had the opportunity to prepare and check the operations and stability of its mine structures and facilities.

The safety standard regulations call for a routine and periodic inspection of such structures and facilities, especially if the weather condition requires extraordinary care and maintenance works.”

Toledo said the firm would file another appeal and would exhaust all available remedies and reiterate that there was no negligence on the part of the firm. Inquirer Research

Source: Inquirer Archives

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  • Yxon

    “Philex contested the penalty saying the incident was something beyond its control.”
    What kind of company are to resort to this kind of reasoning? if you are a talipapa style business I could give you some reprieve but yours is a very big business.  what did you put into your EIA?

  • -XO-

    Does the legislation make the liability absolute or does it make the liability depending upon a finding of negligence? This article does not clarify, and it would be most helpful if it did.  

  • kalikasanipagtanggol

    “What Went Before: Philex Mining leak”

    There are people in govenment with closed eyes with fat pockets!


  • carlorocci

    What Went Before article of PDI always absolved the culprit of wrong doing……A paid article provided by PDI?  Just asking…

  • mangTASYO

    Force Majeure?

    Kaya nagngangalit, Inang Kalikasan
    Sa walang awang pagtalampasan
    Super-bagyo, super-dooper ulan
    Hagupit ng baha ating nararanasan

    Iyang pagmina, pagkatas ng yaman
    Pag di maiwasan dahil kailangan
    Tiyakin lamang at ating bantayan
    Inang Kalikasan di mayuyurakan

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/VBN5IUGKHSGIHDV5L6QVG2KBTI Leop233

    BFAR said the fish contained traces of arsenic and mercury but these did not exceed safe levels

    should be UNSAFE LEVELS

  • zeroko

    Pangilinan is lying when he said that mining is safe. In fact, there is no such thing as SAFE MINING for the simple reason that with our kind of weather, no amount of containment can hold the toxic contrails from run-off. It will spill towards our tributaries. We should ban all kinds of mining. Besides, what Juan de la Cruz gets is nothing but toxic substances like arsenic, lead, mercury, and sulfuric acid.

    Mining is just not fit here in our country considering the strong rain that we have during typhoon season. Pangilinan deserves to leave us and just fly to Hong Kong. 1 billion pesos penalty is peanuts. Who will fend for the hundreds of thousands of affected Filipinos? Who will clean up the toxic waste? Who will compensate for the destruction of our agricultural and fish ponds? Nada!

  • zeroko

    BFAR officials should be brought to a firing squad and executed for taking lightly the extend of damage and toxic waste that has spread out in the environment. Siguro, Chinese yang BFAR official. he he he. Joke lang.

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