Philex: We will not pay fine for mine leak

Posted at 09/26/12 4:57 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Philex Mining Corp., the mining giant led by businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, said it will not pay any fine to be imposed by the government in connection with the mine waste leak at its Padcal mine in Benguet. 

This comes as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to release its decision on penalties for Philex this week. Environment Secretary Ramon Paje earlier said Philex may face a fine of nearly P1 billion. 

Mike Toledo, Philex Mining senior vice-president for Corporate Affairs, said the company should not pay any fines since there was no negligence on  their part. 

He insisted the company should not be held accountable for an incident caused by force majeure, and  "will not pay punitive penalties such as fines."

"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," Toledo said. 

The Philex official said the company will review any decision the DENR will release. "We will indeed contest it at a proper forum," he said. 

"We shouldn't be held liable for something that was caused by force majeure. But we are willing-and, in fact-we have said repeatedly that we have the resources and capabilities to deal with all the remediation activities needed to address the Padcal accident." 

Last August 1, mine waste leaked from a pond at Padcal mine and flowed into a creek connected to the Agno river, one of the largest in the country. Philex blamed the heavy rains caused by typhoon Gener for the leak. It has taken the company a more than a month to stop the leak.

Philex said the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has confirmed the company has a system for maintenance and monitoring of its tailings pond and secondary facilities in Padcal. 

"The findings came as no surprise because the company's environmental management system, including the operation and maintenance of Tailings Pond No. 3, has long been ISO-compliant and -certified," Toledo said.

Toledo also noted the company has been quick to respond to the Padcal incident and will continue to cleanup and rehabilitate the Balog Creek and its convergence area with Agno River. The company has provided assistance to 45 families along the Agno River, who were affected by the incident.