Mine firm accused of forest intrusion
BAGUIO CITY—The country’s largest gold producer, Philex Mining Corp., allegedly destroyed a portion of a protected forest in Itogon, Benguet, to build a road to its new mine waste facility.
Using bulldozers, Philex allegedly felled Benguet pine and gmelina trees to open a 1.5-kilometer road, measuring 6 meters wide, through a section of the Lower Agno Forest Watershed Reserve, according to a Jan. 28 inspection report of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The report said the road leads to a fourth tailings dam at Sitio Banao in Barangay Ampucao in Itogon, which Philex built to replace Tailings Dam No. 3 that spilled 20.6 million metric tons of mine waste during a storm on Aug. 1, 2012.
On Monday, Edgardo Flor, Baguio’s city environment and natural resources officer, said his office has directed Philex to stop its road project.
But in a Feb. 11 letter to the DENR, Libby Ricafort, Philex vice president for operations, said the area spanning Sitio Banao and Sito Sidweng, where they built a road, has been hosting Philex’s reforestation projects, some of of which are covered by family-based reforestation contracts.
These are private reforestation contracts where Philex pays families to harness private woodlots on their property for future use.
Ricafort also said the road in Sitio Sidweng and Sitio Banao traverses the lot being leased by the company.