Gov't slaps P1B fine on Philex for mine waste spill

by Karen Davila, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 26 2012 06:00 PM | Updated as of Sep 27 2012 05:17 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The government imposed a P1 billion fine on Philex Mining Corporation for the more than 20 million metric tons worth of mine tailings that spilled from a tailings pond at its Padcal Mine in Benguet. 

In his letter to Philex, Mines and Geosciences Bureau acting director Leo Jasareno asked the company to pay P1.03 billion in penalties for violation of the Mining Act. 

The fine was computed based on the law, which requires companies to pay P50 for each ton of "waste" spilled.

"Philex will face 3 charges on violations of Mining Act, Clean Water Act and conditions of environmental compliance certificate... Whether incident was intentional, Philex will have to be penalized," Jasareno said.

Philex may face more fines, since the P1 billion does not include the penality for violation of the Clean Air Act.

Jasareno said more than 20 million metric tons of sediments were spilled from Philex's tailings pond, more than the 1.6 million metric tons in the Marcopper incident in 1996. The mine waste from Padcal, which is said to be non-toxic, spilled into the Balog creek, and the Agno River.

"The difference is the Marcopper spill involved active mixture of solid, liquid. Sa Philex, sediments in tailings pond spilled over, it can be cleaned," Jasareno said. 

Philex is given 7 days to answer the MGB's order.

However, Philex insisted they should not be fined since the mine waste spill was caused by force majeure.

"Unang una po, hindi naman siguro dapat magkaroon ng fines kasi wala naman pong negligence sa Philex. Isang po ay aksidente ito po ay force majeure. Talagang napakalakas po ang ulan, at makikita po natin sa records ng gobyerno na ang average rainfall maski 50 to 100 years. Lampas lampas po sa statistics on average rainfall," Mike Toledo, Philex Mining senior vice-president for Corporate Affairs.

Philex has not received a copy of the MGB report, but they are ready to challenge the government's decision.