Philex, not ‘Force Majeure,’ responsible for mine disaster

THE Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) disputed claims of Philex Mining Corporation that the recent dam failure incidents in its Padcal Mine in Benguet was a Force Majeure, stating that the company failed to erect proper structures to ensure safe mining operations.

Philex recently released a statement blaming the spill incident on the heavy rains and absolving itself of responsibility in the major mining disaster that released 80 million metric tons of mine tailings or wastes.

“Philex has arrogantly resorted to blaming God for the negligence of its Padcal operations that resulted in the massive pollution of Balog River and other connected water bodies. It clearly did not ensure the integrity of its tailings pond in its pursuit to maximize its operations, and must therefore be punished for its crimes to the people and the environment,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

A breach in the lower portion of the Padcal Mine’s Tailings Pond 3 (TP3) resulted in at least 5 major spillings from August 1 to September 13. TP3 was commissioned in 1992 with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources estimating its life span to be from 18-20 years.

“The tailings dam was used beyond its lifespan estimated to be only until mid-2012, but was pushed by Philex to be until 2014 when it discovered an increase in proven reserves. It is this greed by the country’s foremost so-called responsible miner that resulted in the tailings dam’s structural compromise, not Force Majeure,” Bautista pointed out.

PAGASA reported as early as June this year that the Pacific Ocean is trending towards a monsoon-influenced El Niño condition that would result in above normal rainfall conditions. Yet, “despite warnings about increased rainfall and typhoons, Philex did not disaster-proof its facilities,” added Bautista.

According to the Defend Patrimony Alliance against Mining Liberalization, downstream communities are suffering from the massive siltation triggered by the spill. Siltation in the affected rivers drove away the fishes, and increased water levels that prevented small-scale miners from panning.

“There is a need for an independent environmental investigation to immediately assess the situation at the Padcal Mines and the necessary redresses, but this is being prevented by the Philex management. The company has prohibited investigations on the dam failure by outside groups, and instead disseminated its own unacceptable explanations for the incident,” the Defend Patrimony said in a statement.

Kalikasan PNE and Defend Patrimony reiterated that Philex must be fined and its Padcal Mine be permanently closed as its present state will surely threaten the environment and the people in nearby areas. The groups also pointed out that company’s track record of environmental crimes since 1992 is enough basis to cancel other Philex projects, including its new $1.2-billion Silangan Project.

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