MANILA, Philippines - Philex Mining Corp. has asked the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to allow the company to resume the operations of its copper-gold mine in Padcal, Benguet to produce fresh tailings to be used as fill for the void in its tailings pond no. 3 (TP3).
Company officials said the proposed resumption of the mine operations is in line with the recommendations of its foreign consultants to maintain the stability of its tailings facility.
Libby Ricafort, Philex Mining vice president for operations and Padcal resident manager, said the process, called beaching, needs to be conducted as soon as possible to fill the void in the tailings pond.
“TP3 is designed to hold solids, not water. We need around 3.5 million tons of silt materials of fresh new tailings to push the water away from the dam,” he said.
“We need to push water away properly to fill in the void, so we need to create a beach,” he said.
Ricafort said the company would need three to four months to produce the volume of silt needed for beaching.
Philex is targeting to complete the construction of the spillway for TP3 in April.
Ricafort said the company should take advantage of the dry season to complete the beaching of the dam.
“This is the right time to do it. We must take advantage of the dry season before the onset of the rainy days,” he said.
The copper concentrate that would be produced from the temporary resumption of operations would be stored as part of the mine’s stockpile and would not be sold until the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) lifts the suspension order on mine operations.
“The request for temporary operations is part of our rehabilitation plan. Whatever copper concentrate is produced, we will not sell it. It will become part of the stockpile and would only be sold once we are allowed to resume operations,” said Philex spokesman Mike Toledo.
Ricafort explained that another option to fill the void in the tailings pond is to gather the spilled tailings from the waterways but this would be expensive and time consuming because the company would still have to install additional infrastructure such as roads and pumps in the mine site.
MGB director Leo Jasareno said the bureau is still studying the proposal of the company.
“According to Philex, this will add to the stability of the tailings pond. We are still reviewing it,” he said.
Philex has been ordered with finality to pay the P1.034-billion fine for the tailings spill in its Padcal mine in August.
Toledo said the company intends to comply with the order of the MGB.