Rivers cleaned up while dam repairs continue, says Philex
12:06 am | Saturday, August 11th, 2012
BAGUIO CITY—Philex Mining Corp. has deployed a cleanup crew to Benguet tributaries to remove chemicals and sediments discharged from its tailings dam at its Padcal mine in Itogon, Benguet, on Aug. 1, a company official said on Friday.
A government team sent by Environment Secretary Ramon Paje to oversee the repairs of the tailings dam joined the crew at the waterways that flow toward the Agno and Balog river channels, lawyer Eduardo Aratas, Philex legal officer, said.
In an Aug. 10 statement, Philex said the teams were tasked to prevent silt from reaching the convergence area going to the San Roque Dam in San Manuel, Pangasinan.
The firm’s Tailings Dam No. 3 in Itogon accidentally discharged nontoxic water and sediments that was stopped “in less than 48 hours,” after its discovery on Aug. 1, Philex said in a statement.
A tailings dam is the repository of all chemicals and sediments disposed in the course of mine operations.
Philex suspended its operations and asked its workers to volunteer for rehabilitation work instead. Stopping operations would cost the company P220 million in monthly losses, the firm said.
In the City of San Fernando on Friday, Manuel Pangilinan, Philex chair, acknowledged the mine’s woes. Pangilinan had motored to Pampanga, his home province, to distribute relief goods.
In his talks with San Fernando Mayor Oscar Rodriguez, he said “the tailings are like sand.”
Libby Ricafort, Philex vice president for operations and Padcal mine resident manager, said on Friday that the firm’s environmental office had sent out three river teams on Monday to survey the Benguet waters.
“The task force will wash, impound, collect and haul sediments along the riverbanks or riverbed into a strategic site as backfill materials. The process may be done through mechanical engineering, depending on the assessment of the experts,” he said in a statement.
“The operations in Padcal mine have been reorganized to focus on immediate remediation and rehabilitation of its tailings storage facility and the impact of water and sediments leak on the environment,” he said.
“[The] physical cleanup of the affected rivers is part of a long-term plan to rehabilitate and restore the tributaries, and develop them as a potential ecopark and tourist area in the future.”
On Thursday, Philex said it had engaged “domestic and foreign consultants to develop a rehabilitation plan to ensure the safety and integrity of the tailings pond facility, and an environmental program that will address any environmental impact which may have been brought about by the incident.”
It said the discharges were traced to “one of the two underground tunnels that drain water from the penstock in the tailings pond.” Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon, and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon