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Mining firm pays over P1 billion fine for waste leak

A mining firm has paid over 1 billion peso in a fine imposed by the Philippine government for a tailings pond leak which occurred in its mining site in Northern Luzon in August last year.

Philex Mining Corp., the country’s biggest mining company, settled on Monday its obligation to the Philippine government, asking the government to let them resume its mining operations and rehabilitate the tailings pond where 20.6 million tonnes of mine waste was leaked.

“We believe it was a result of the elements of nature—an event of force majeure,” said Michael Toledo, senior vice president for Corporate Affairs at Philex Mining.

“But even as we are not at fault, we share the concern of government for the environment, thus we are paying the fee, as set by regulators, to cover the costs of remediation and rehabilitation activities.”

He added that the company would continue cooperating with government regulators to ensure the safety and integrity of the damaged tailings pond and the rehabilitation of the areas affected by the accidental discharge of water and sediment in the areas near the mining site.

Government regulators had ordered Philex Mining to pay P1,034,358,971.00 over the incident last August when water and sediment discharged accidentally from the company’s tailings pond following historically unprecedented heavy rains brought about by two successive typhoons.

“Despite our differences in opinion with the government, we are paying the fee to create a fund for the remediation and rehabilitation program that will be approved by the government,” Mr. Toledo said.

He stressed that this was  “to show that cooperation is possible between the regulators and the regulated, and so that we can move forward to ensure the stability of the tailings pond and continue serving our stakeholders and continue our share in nation-building.”

Philex Mining has asked permission from the government through the Mines and Geoscience Bureau for the resumption of its operations as part of the rehabilitation, which needs 3.5 million tons of fresh tailings to fill up its conical void and create a beach in the pond.

Mike Gowan, of Australia’s Golder Associates, a global ground engineering and environmental services firm, said the beach would push the accumulated water in the pond away from its embankment and into a spillway.

He had stressed before a public forum organized by MGB on Feb. 6 that the filling and beaching process would reinstate the TP3, which is built to hold solids and not water, back to its original state. This should be done before the onset of the rainy season in June, he added.

Philex Mining voluntarily and immediately stopped its gold and copper production at Padcal when the mine-spill incident happened on Aug. 1, and reported this to government regulators and other offices concerned.

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