MANILA, Philippines - Philex Mining Corp. (PMC) is considering recommissioning the broken tailings pond no. 3 (TP3) of its copper-gold mine in Padcal, Benguet to be able to immediately resume the operations of the mine, officials said yesterday.
In a press briefing yesterday, PMC vice president for operations and Padcal mine resident manager Libby Ricafort said the design of TP3 would be changed from a penstock design to a spillway design to accommodate the resumption of operations.
“The fastest that we can resume operations of the mine is to use tailings pond no. 3,” said Ricafort.
The recommissioned TP3 could be used for three to four years, during which time a new tailings pond may be built.
“We are using it (TP3) to buy time,” said Ricafort.
The construction of the spillways that would replace the broken penstock of the tailings pond is expected to be finished by April.
Ricafort said assuming that all remediating measures in the mine could be completed within the early part of next year and the suspension is lifted, the mine could resume operations within the second half of 2013.
PMC is yet to submit a formal proposal to the government for the recommissioning of TP3.
“But I’m sure that the DENR will cooperate on that,” said Philex spokesperson Mike Toledo.
Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director Leo Jasareno earlier said TP3 may still be used.
The current lifespan of the Padcal mine is up to 2020. Commissioning a new tailings pond during the last three to four years of its operations may prompt the extension of its lifespan.
“Depending on economic conditions, we are looking at 50 more years. Our geologists will keep on exploring. If they find new reserves, this will surely extend the life of the mine,” he said.
PMC is still grappling with penalties imposed by the government for violation of The Mining Act and environmental laws in relation to the tailings spill in the mine.
The MGB received last Wednesday the response of PMC on the P1.034 billion in penalties imposed for violation of the Mining Act for water and sediments spilled from TP3.
Jasareno declined to comment on the letter pending its evaluation.
Toledo, however, said that in the letter, PMC maintained that it should not be made to pay the fines because the incident was caused by force majeure.
“We’re saying that we should not be made to pay the fines because the incident was caused by force majeur and that we are willing to pay for the cost of the cleanup, rehabilitation and damages to families,” he said.
“We are still waiting for the response of the MGB but our position has always been consistent,” he added.
The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) has also imposed a penalty of P50,000 for violation of a condition of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) that states that all tailings should be “100 percent contained.”
PMC also faces penalties of P50,000 to P200,000 per day for violation of the Clean Water Act.
In a few days, the MGB would be issuing the final imposition of the penalty on PMC.
“We will follow the due process and we will take it from there,” said Toledo.