Philex dam in wrong place, says ex-VP


BAGUIO CITY—The engineer who helped build the damaged waste storage facility of gold producer Philex Mining Corp. in Benguet said it was wrongly constructed along a drain area of the Agno River.

Ricardo Famorca, retired assistant vice president of Philex, said this is a detail authorities must consider as the government monitors the process of stabilizing and repairing Tailings Pond No. 3, for which the firm paid P1.034 billion in penalties when the facility burst and spilled wastes into the Balog Creek on Aug. 1, 2012, during a storm.

Famorca, 81, said the tailings dam serves Philex’s original block caving operations at the Padcal mine in Itogon, Benguet.

But the facility sits on an area that serves as the main drain of Agno River, he told reporters here on Wednesday. This means that the dam sits atop a natural catchment area for river water and tributaries that flow down from the Benguet mountains.

Government mine engineers said Tailings Pond No. 3 was breached by gushing water that penetrated the tailings last year due to heavy rains dumped by successive storms.

The water had not discharged through a tunnel because of a damaged penstock system that controls the flow of water which is normally expelled from the dam. The hole was plugged a few days later.

Officials of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in the Cordillera said Philex resumed operations on March 8 to generate 3.5 million tons of fresh mine waste to fill up the crevice left open by the breach.

Philex was given a temporary permit to operate for four months to fulfill this target, MGB said.

Lawyer Eduardo Aratas, Philex’s legal counsel at its Padcal mine, said the firm has no record that the damaged waste facility was located on a vulnerable area.

“[Famorca] was with our milling division [during his stint at Philex]. Be that as it may, the Tailings [Pond No.] 3 is intact given the Aug. 1 incident. It did not collapse. In fact, government regulators have cleared its use for remediation purposes,” Aratas said in a text message.

Fay Apil, MGB Cordillera director, said the concerns raised by Famorca were considered in the environmental impact assessment conducted before the government’s issuance of an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the construction of Tailings Pond No. 3 in the 1990s.

Famorca said he retired from Philex in 1992, the same year the tailings pond was completed. “I was the one who built that dam … But I was against the building of that dam in the main drain, [however] my bosses did not heed me,” Famorca said. “It’s a main drain. Sobrang water ang pumapasok (too much water discharges toward that area) because its catchment area is so big.”

He said he offered this information to help authorities craft a better program to protect Agno River.

Famorca confirmed Philex’s statements that the tailings expelled to the river were not toxic.

Famorca said Tailings Pond No. 3 was on his mind when rains poured hard on Aug. 1 last year. “I was waiting for them to call me. I know that dam like the palm of my hand,” he said.

The dam was designed to contain up to 140 million metric tons of tailings, Famorca said.—Vincent Cabreza

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  • Weder-Weder Lang

    Not to worry. MVP is helping PNoy and Team PNoy so much these days. He paid for SWS and Pulse Asia surveys to make LP look good. MVP’s TV5 is granting free primetime TV ad time for Bam Aquino. In exchange, MVP is winning PPPs from PNoy’s administration. He was even allowed to resume the operations of Philex despite the unresolved environmental hazards. This is politics and business connivance at a whole new different level.

    • Pons Corpuz

      nice theory…

      • Weder-Weder Lang

        it’s all out there. you have some catching up to do Pons.

      • Pons Corpuz

        Where? can you show some concrete proof? I am very much updated to what’s happening but it’s kinda stupid to make a conclusion based only on assumptions.

      • Weder-Weder Lang

        The latest round of surveys were commissioned by MVP’s business world. Next time, read the details and don’t pester me with your stupidity.

      • Pons Corpuz

        So what if its commissioned by MVP (sic)? does that instantly make a connection? a hasty conclusion? besides, show some proof hindi yong haka haka lang coz that’s the real stupidity. And dont be too much stupid, PLDT which MVP chairs is just a minority shareholder of business world. That does not translate to control or ownership. Magaral ka muna!

      • Weder-Weder Lang

        Bakit ka defensive? Nobody mentioned anything about PLDT. Napaghahalataan kasi yung amo mo.

      • Pons Corpuz

        Opps, obvious na nauubusan k na ng arguments. Those are mere explanations to educate a moron like you para hindi ka dada ng walang basehan. Your last comment does not even prove anything. Really shows how b*b* you are.

      • Weder-Weder Lang


  • zeroko

    We should hold Pangilinan responsible. We should confiscate his properties for damages. That spill has cost untold misery and damages down stream of the tributaries. I hold PNoy responsible for these for encouraging the opening of so many mining ventures which never benefited the Filipino people , instead, it give undue advantage to his fatherland, This greedy Filipino-Chinese president of ours is responsible for all these economic misery of our people and dislocation of our indigenous brothers. He is guilty of treason.of TREASON.

  • Jack

    bakit ngayon mo lang nabanggit ito?

  • noiye


  • vaporub123

    20 years after retiring,now you have the beans to spill?you should have resign if your bosses did’nt heed you;or go to the media for coverage? hindi naman kaya takot ka mawalaan ng puwesto with all the benefits being the vice president of the company? thats why you kept your mouth shut?tsk-tsk

    • Guest
    • Butch Chua

      This is why he resigned, next question?

  • carlcid

    When the big mining firms say that they practice “responsible” mining, the country better watch out because they actually mean “predatory” mining.

  • Charles Lynel F. Joven

    Mining companies in the Philippines just don’t care about local communities and the environment….. bunch of greedy suckers…!

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