THE operations of Philex Mining Corp in Padcal, Tuba, Benguet, remain suspended until the integrity and safety of its tailings pond is assured, putting to question the structural integrity of one of the country’s oldest mines.
While saying that the accidental discharge of water and sediments from one of the two underground tunnels that drains water from the penstock of tailings pond no. 3 of Philex has already been stopped, Environment Secretary Ramon JP Paje wants to ensure that such event threatening to pollute water bodies in Benguet will not happen again, especially when the country is currently experiencing heavy rains.
As this developed, Paje ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB) to look into any violations of mining and environmental laws that may have been committed by Philex.
Philex’s mining operation in Padcal, one of the oldest mines in the country, has been suspended since August 2, 2012, a day after the accidental discharge was discovered.
Philex is the country’s second-leading producer of copper concentrate. It has been in operation for the last 57 years. The mine employs about 2,500 regular workers. It hosts a mining community deep in the highlands of the Cordilleras with a population of about 14,000.
According to MGB Director Leo Jasareno, Philex has three tailings pond but only tailings pond no. 3 is actively used. The two other ponds have been decommissioned and rehabilitated as forest areas.
The DENR-MGB has completed its initial assessment of the situation, including the impact of the water and sediment discharge to the river system in the surrounding areas.
The ocular inspection done by the MGB and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) on Friday found that the San Roque Power Dam has not been affected by the discharge.
Laboratory analyses of water samples are continuing, however.
The dam is situated at about 30 kilometers downstream of Agno River from its convergence with Balog River. The drain tunnels of Philex discharge their water load into the Balog River that, in turn, runs for about 2.5 kilometers to converge with Agno River.
Jasareno said that Philex engineers, working round-the-clock since the incident was discovered in the early morning of August 1, 2012, successfully plugged the penstock of the tailings pond no. 3 to stop water and sediments from passing through it and into the drain tunnel.
The penstock is a hollow elongated structure built within a tailings pond, with sidewalls or stopboards but open at the top where overflow water of the said pond enters and drains to the drainage tunnel below it. This prevents water from accumulating excessively in a tailings pond.
The initial investigation showed that portions of the stopboards might have been displaced by hydrostatic pressure brought about by the “unusually heavy rains” in the area for the last two weeks, Jasareno said.
The country, which is visited by an average of 20 typhoons yearly, experiences “unusually heavy rains” during typhoons, triggering flash floods and landslides, especially in areas cleared of trees, the forest’s natural protection, such as mining areas.
### Source: http://businessmirror.com.ph ###
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