“Firm Frowns Over 1B Gov’t Fines”
By ACE ALEGRE
Tuba, Benguet (September 28, 2012) – Instead of blaming “God”, the environmental advocacy group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) pointed at Philex Mining Corporation’s own failure to erect proper structures to ensure safe mining operations in its Padcal operations here.
Disputing claims of the huge mine firm that the recent dam failure incidents were a Force Majeure, Kalikasan PNE coordinator Dr. Clemente Bautista Jr. said, “the tailings dam was used beyond its lifespan estimated to be only until mid-2012, but was pushed by Philex to be until 2014 when it discovered an increase in proven reserves.”
Philex has blamed the spill incident on the heavy rains last August, as it tried to parry criticisms on its responsibility in the major mining disaster that released 80 million metric tons of mine tailings or wastes.
A breach in the lower portion of the Padcal Mine’s Tailings Pond 3 (TP3) resulted in at least five major spillages from August 1 to September 13. TP3 was commissioned in 1992 with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources estimating its life span to be from 18-20 years.
Bautista Jr. said, “Philex has arrogantly resorted to blaming God for the negligence of its Padcal operations that resulted in the massive pollution of Balog River and other connected water bodies. It clearly did not ensure the integrity of its tailings pond in its pursuit of maximizing its operations, and must therefore be punished for its crimes to the people and the environment.”
PAGASA reported as early as June this year that the Pacific Ocean is trending towards a monsoon-influenced El Niño condition that would result in above normal rainfall. Yet, “despite warnings about increased rainfall and typhoons, Philex did not disaster-proof its facilities,” added Bautista.
An independent probe conducted in its Padcal operations and outlying areas in Tuba and Itogon reportedly found various violations of Philex including the ill effects of the leak on the environment.
Kalikasan PNE and anti-mining alliance Defend Patrimony have urged the government to fine Philex and to permanently close its Padcal Mine be as its present state will surely threaten the environment and the people in nearby areas.
Both groups point out the company’s record of “environmental crimes” since 1992 are enough bases to cancel other Philex projects, including its new $1.2-billion Silangan Project.
But Philex is contesting the P1-billion fine slapped by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the DENR.
Michael Toledo, senior vice president for Corporate Affairs, cited the MGB’s report which indicated no negligence from Philex in the leaks, and “a force majeure was admitted by the bureau”.
Toledo asked why, despite a report virtually absolving them, the billion peso fine was still imposed.