A tailings pond in the Philippines at Philex Mining Corporation’s Padcal gold mine was discovered to be leaking on August 1. Philex suspended its operations that day as they investigated the source of the leak. The company then deployed cleanup crews to remove chemicals and sediments discharging into the river nearby. The tailings failure is said to have been caused by heavy rains. The tailings facility drains into the Balog River which converges with the Agno River, near the San Roque Dam in the northern part of the Philippines.

Here’s what some of the local news sources are saying about this latest tailings failure:

The Business Inquirer - August 5th

Government teams supervised by Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Leo Jasareno confirmed that leaks from the waste containment dam of Philex Mining Corp. in Itogon, Benguet, had been stopped.

Fay Apil, acting MGB Cordillera director, said on Saturday that they inspected the mine’s tailings dam at 5:30 p.m. Friday and did not detect signs of the breach.

The leak may have burst from a break in the dam’s penstock, the gateway which discharges rainwater that collects on the surface of the tailings pond, she said.

The dam was built in 1992 and had just been reinforced, government engineers said. Early this year, a Philex work crew raised the dam’s height to increase its capacity, records from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) showed.

 

The Inquirer News - August 11th

Philex Mining Corp. has deployed a cleanup crew to Benguet tributaries to remove chemicals and sediments discharged from its tailings dam at its Padcal mine in Itogon, Benguet, on Aug. 1, a company official said on Friday.

In an Aug. 10 statement, Philex said the teams were tasked to prevent silt from reaching the convergence area going to the San Roque Dam in San Manuel, Pangasinan.

The firm’s Tailings Dam No. 3 in Itogon accidentally discharged nontoxic water and sediments that was stopped “in less than 48 hours,” after its discovery on Aug. 1, Philex said in a statement.

Philex suspended its operations and asked its workers to volunteer for rehabilitation work instead. Stopping operations would cost the company P220 million in monthly losses, the firm said.

 

Bulatlat - August 22nd

Philex has reportedly been filling its tailings ponds to way over its capacity, doing only “mitigating measures” against likely spills, and ignoring the pond’s ending lifespan.

Residents of Benguet province and all communities downriver of Agno and San Roque dam continue to live in danger from the accumulated toxic wastes of Philex Mining Corporation. Although Philex has shut down since Aug. 1 its sole gold mining operations – and it tells the public the mines would remain closed until the company has attended to the reported cracks and resulting leakages from its mine tailings pond – communities living near the site said they hope Philex would just shut down its mining operations permanently.

 

Lastly, one report from Philstar mentions how responsible the company is and applauds the way Philex handled the situation.

Those who are still doubtful about the existence of “responsible mining” need only look at the way Philex Mining Corporation responded to the recent tailings pond spillage at the company’s Padcal Mine site in Benguet where the incessant rains that battered the country caused an accidental spillage.

While other companies might have tried to conceal the incident, Philex did something totally unexpected that most likely took mining industry critics by surprise: The company voluntarily reported the spillage not only to the government and the immediate community but to the media as well.

Others would have characterized it as suicide but the move, as some industry insiders aver, was “classic MVP” referring to Manny V. Pangilinan, the mining company’s chair. After all, it’s so easy to define “responsible mining” within the framework of environmental projects, and rehabilitation as well as community development that industry players engage in and trumpet for good measure via the mushrooming number of TV commercials.

 

Also, here’s what the company says on their website about their Padcal Mine tailings pond:

About 9.3 million tons of mill tailings were impounded at Tailings Storage Facility No. 3 in 2010, now with a total of 149.7 million tons containment since the start of impoundment in 1992. The dam embankment of Tailings Storage Facility No. 3 is continuously being built up maintaining a freeboard of not less than five meters at any given time. The actual freeboard as of December 2010 is 6.114 meters.

Tailings Storage Facilities 1 and 2 which were already decommissioned continue to undergo rehabilitation. The buttressing of Tailings Pond No. 2 Toe Dam to further enhance its stability is already completed. Likewise, the construction of Check Dam No. 2 at Tailings Pond No. 3 for silt control purposes was also completed.

All the Tailings Storage Facilities are regularly monitored by the Multi-Partite Monitoring Team (MMT) composed of representatives from the LGU, government agencies, and local community.