DENR suspends Philex mining for leak of mine tailings to Balog river

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through its Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), has suspended the mining operations of Philex Mining Corp. at Brgy. Padcal in Tuba, Benguet until such time that the integrity and safety of its tailings pond number 3 has been assured. 

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said that the suspension order, which was issued on August 2, 2012, remains in effect as of today. 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 been stopped yesterday afternoon at about 5:00 PM.

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.

Paje said that 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) yesterday initially found that the San Roque Power Dam has not been affected by the discharge. Laboratory analyses of water samples are continuing. 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.

Paje said that the DENR is now looking into any violations of the mining and environmental laws that may have been committed by Philex.

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 thru it and into the drain tunnel.

Jasareno described the penstock as 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, therefore, serves to prevent 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, Director Jasareno said.

Philex is the country’s second leading producer of copper concentrate. It has been in operation in the last 57 years. In 2011, its gross sale from its copper, as well as gold and silver by-products, was valued at PhP 16 billion. 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.

 

 

 

 

EnvironmentNatural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje rallied last week his field officials to ensure the success of the National Greening Program, saying the program has full support of the President.

    “There is no reason to fail considering that President Aquino has amply given all the support this program (NGP) needs to succeed,” Paje told the regional executive directors (REDs),  regional technical directors, and the provincial and community environment and natural resources officers (PENROs, CENROs) attending the 2-day National Convention of Field Officers held May 31-June 1, 2011 at the DENR Social Hall in Quezon City.

    Paje also challenged the field officials “to give their best shot” as their performance in implementing the NGP will be “highly taken into consideration’ in the evaluation of officials for promotions.
 
“Those who will be performing will be rewarded. Wala pong biro yan,” Paje said, stressing that the field officers will be evaluated fairly based on a purely-merit system “without regard for personal ties or past associations” he has made through over 20 years at the DENR where he started his career as a casual forester.

Paje said the NGP-driven performance-based incentive scheme will first zero in on the PENRO and CENRO positions, with an instruction to DENR Assistant Secretary for Management and Finance Corazon Davis to reserve the vacant PENRO and CENRO posts as rewards for NGP’s top performers especially those that are on an acting capacity. 

“If you are a CENRO, you will automatically become a PENRO.  Those who are not yet full-pledged CENRO (with temporary appointment), we will make you full-pledged CENROs. Performance lamang, wala nang iba,”  Paje stressed. 

Of the 168 CENRO plantilla positions, 47 have yet to be filled;  while 25 remain vacant in the 73 PENRO  plantilla posts.

The incentive scheme forms part of Paje’s overall program to strengthen DENR’s performance-based promotion system to beef up the national leadership’s efforts in professionalizing the  Philippine bureaucracy.

But Paje was quick to clarify that the quality of their performance will be determined by the survival of the seedling declared in their performance and not merely on the number of seedling planted.

“Remember, the NGP is a national priority program of President Aquino, and this is not for show but for grow. Gone are the days when tree planting activities were just to set world records or just for photo opportunities,” Paje noted.

At the same time, Paje asked “doubting Thomases” to be forthcoming this early with their hesitation to go all out to meet their targets to allow for management to act appropriately in their particular case.

“We will make sure that everybody performs. Kung sino sa inyo ang tingin ay hindi kayang ipatupad ang programang ito, sabihin na ninyo ngayon,” Paje said.

The performance-based incentive will be based on the field officials’ scorecard in the  yearly targets given them and will be validated with the use of state-of-the art technology such as satellite mapping and internet-based technology through NGP’s website at the www.ngp.denr.gov.ph