Philex must pay for all damages of Padcal mines disaster

GREEN group Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) joined various groups in a protest action at the Philex’s main office in Ortigas to hold accountable what they called “the worst mining disaster in the past two decades,” and demanded Philex to pay for all immediate and long-term environmental and social costs they incurred.

Salient findings of an independent fact-finding mission on the recent series of tailings dam failures in Philex Mining Corporation’s Padcal Mines revealed indications of massive siltation and probable toxic contamination in the Balog Creek and other tributaries down to the Agno River. 20.6 million metric tons of mine waste was released into the water ways, or 1,300 percent higher than the amount spilled during the Marcopper mining disaster back in 1996.

“An independent investigation has finally exposed the deceit of supposed experts from Philex, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and other institutions that support the claim that the mine-affected waters are safe. This massive amount of siltation definitely disrupted the functions of the affected aquatic ecosystems,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

“There’s no skirting the fact that Philex is entirely responsible, and must not only pay for the full ecological restoration of the affected environment, but also the indemnification of the affected communities. Philex must pay for the daily cost of living of every affected peasant, fisherfolk and miners’ family for every day that they are unable to work due to the immediate and possible long-term effects of the mine wastes on their livelihood,” Bautista noted.

Testimonies gathered by Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) revealed that the Padcal Mine’s workers, who have been redirected to the full-time emergency rehabilitation of the dam failures’ impacts, have been exposed to hazardous and abusive working conditions.

“Philex’s workers have been suffering for the irresponsibility and bungled response of the management, subjected to physically and mentally strenuous working conditions. River cleanup crews have no early warning system for subsequent tailings surges from the dam. Some are forced to work for 24-48 hours for lack of relievers. They should duly and promptly pay for the occupational health and safety of their workers, as well as their overtime pay and night differentials,” asserted Bautista.

The group along with other people’s organizations are planning to conduct a follow-up scientific environmental investigation to confirm the effects of the siltation on the feeding and nesting grounds of fisheries, check the bio-indicators in the affected areas for toxicity, assess the mine’s facility integrity and the health situation of affected workers and communities.

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