TUBA, Benguet – Philex Mining Corp. has asked a regional trial court (RTC) in this province “to cite in contempt” an “unincorporated group” that had barricaded its tailings pond for having violated a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued against it last week.
Stressing that “obedience is enjoined” in the restraining order, the company said in its 18-page complaint, “More importantly, violation of the terms of the agreement and, therefore, the Order, is punishable with the indirect contempt under Rule 71 of the Rules of Court.”
Philex Mining said the self-named “Damstream Indigenous Group,” composed of 24 men and women and several other “John Does,” had again prevented it from continuing the backfilling of offset-dike (OSD) extension and land bridge at its Tailings Storage Facility No. 3 (TSF3), in Padcal mine, on March 30 and 31.
“This is an urgent petition to cite Respondents in contempt …” the company said in the complaint filed Friday, April 6, before the RTC Benguet. It added that the respondents, led by Erick “Erich” Pitelan, “blatantly and contumaciously violated, and continue to violate, the unequivocal tenor of the Order.”
Eduardo Aratas, manager at Padcal mine’s Legal Div., said Rule 71 carries a fine not exceeding P30,000 or imprisonment of not more than six months, or both. He also said the hearings for all the pending complaints that the company has filed against Pitelan, et al. are on Tuesday, April 17, following the raffles of such cases done today, April 12.
Last Tuesday, April 3, Philex Mining also asked the RTC Benguet to order the respondents to keep a distance of at least 10 kilometers away from the TSF3 and its open spillway, in Itogon town’s Brgy. Ampucao.
Some Philex Mining employees and contract workers from San R Construction and GA Flores Construction assigned at the TSF3 and its open spillway have likewise filed before the RTC Benguet criminal cases against Pitelan, et al. for preventing them from carrying out their duties—a violation of the Mining Act.
Issued on Tuesday, March 27, the TRO stemmed from a complaint that Philex Mining had filed against Pitelan, et al. who had barricaded for six days the TSF3 starting from Thursday, March 22, over misplaced demands for payments of royalties.
The respondents removed the barricade following the issuance of the TRO, which has granted the petitioner the “unimpeded” general cleaning of its open spillway and the backfilling of dikes no more than three meters high .
Stressing that the OSD and land bridge are vital parts of TSF3, the company said their continued backfilling is necessary to assure the integrity and safety of the tailings pond and its open spillway. Otherwise, the pond would overflow and adversely affect the nearby rivers and farmlands, causing severe damage to the company and the environment, as well as depriving the surrounding residents of their livelihood.
At the hearing on Philex Mining’s TRO application, the petitioner had reached an agreement with the group of Pitelan, a resident of Brgy. Ampucao’s Sitio Talnag, that the respondents “would ensure, among other [things], the unimpeded backfilling of its dikes” at the TSF3.
Philex Mining has maintained that demands for royalties by Pitelan, et al. were misplaced, as they had been duly paid by the company for their land claims, including those that the miner had appropriated for its tailings ponds and open spillway.