MANILA, Philippines - Philex Mining Corp. is looking at reopening its Padcal mine in Benguet by the second half of 2013.
The Padcal mine has been closed since August, after one of its tailings pond experienced several leaks due to heavy rains brought by a typhoon.
In a statement, Philex said it will now start building a new tailings pond and rehabilitate Tailings Pond no. 3 in preparation for the resumption of Padcal operations by the second half of 2013.
Philex also said its biggest shareholder First Pacific Company has agreed to provide up to $200 million to fund its operations. As part of the facility, First Pacific, through an indirect subsidiary, granted a P2.1 billion loan to Philex.
Part of the loan will also fund the requirements of Philex's new Silangan mine in Surigao del Norte.
Philex contests P1 billion fine
Philex said it will still contest the P1 billion fine imposed by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau for the tailings leak at Padcal mine.
"Despite the finding of non-negligence by the MGB, we are willing to pay whatever it takes to clean up. We will not run away. We want to prove once and for all that in this country, responsible mining is possible," Philex Mining senior vice president Mike Toledo said on ANC's Headstart.
Toledo said the company is prepared to shoulder the cost of the clean-up, which is estimated at P1 billion.
However, he insisted they are not obligated to pay the fine since the tailings leak was due to heavy rains brought by typhoon Gener, which falls under the law's provisions on force majeure.
Toledo said the company has already provided compensation to 36 affected families in the area
No mutant tilapia
Toledo also said tests conducted on the Balog creek and Agno river, where the mine tailings spilled, shows the fish and water are safe.
"Tests were conducted in Balog and Agno river by the BFAR and other joint monitoring bodies and it showed clearly the water is safe, its not toxic. The fish are safe for human consumption. There's no truth to the rumor that they're spreading that there is such a thing as mutant tilapias... This is sad because you're trying to scare people. Scaring is not a good thing when you're trying to solve a problem," Toledo said.
DENR decision out this week
Meanwhile, MGB director Leo Jasareno said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will come out with a final decision on whether Philex is liable for the P1 billion fine this week.
"We expect to render the decision this week as to whether Philex is liable for the payment of P1 billion... Philex's position is they should not pay any amount as penalty for the discharge of the tailings," he told ANC's Headstart.
"I think any mine has at least the moral obligation to shoulder any liability. It would would not be good for a mine that has dirtied the environment would go out and pay nothing at all. That's my personal opinion," he added.