Dam water safe despite mine waste
DAGUPAN CITY—Despite tons of mine tailings deposited in its reservoir after a breach in a tailings pond of Philex Mining Corp. in Benguet province last year, the water quality at San Roque Dam has remained within standard levels, an official of the San Roque Power Corp. (SRPC) said.
Tom Valdez, SRPC vice president for corporate social responsibility, said a team of environment officials and scientists has been conducting water quality tests there every two weeks since last year and has not seen any abnormality so far.
“What we have done—and are still doing—is that immediately after the spill, we started the water quality test. And so far, in all the results that we’ve seen, it was normal, including the sediments,” said Valdez.
At least 13-million cubic meters of mine tailings flowed into the San Roque Dam’s reservoir, located in San Manuel, Pangasinan province, when a mine tailings pond of Philex in Itogon, Benguet, breached on Aug. 1, 2012.
The tailings first spilled into Balog Creek, which flows to Agno River. Agno River feeds San Roque Dam.
Valdez said the amount of total suspended solids was only high at the time the leak was happening, making the water at the reservoir murky.
The water quality monitoring, he said, is done with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the Environmental Management Board.
He said after several meetings with Philex officials and the MGB, Philex organized a multipartite monitoring team, which, he said, was also doing the same water quality tests.
“So, we now actually have two teams doing it. And we will do this continuously so that if something crops up in the future, we will already have a basis,” he said.
In June, Dagupan Mayor Belen Fernandez formed a group tasked to study the impact of the spilled mine tailings on the seven rivers that crisscross the city.
Agno River has tributaries in the Pangasinan plains on its way to the Lingayen Gulf.
“We are at the end of the Sinocalan River system [which is connected to Agno River] and we should be prepared,” said city agriculturist Emma Molina.
Valdez, however, said Dagupan’s river system is independent from Agno River. Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon