ITOGON, Benguet – The management of the Benguet Corporation (BC) assured the Cordillera offices of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB-CAR) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-CAR) as well as the community that the minor leak of mine tailings discovered from Antamok tailings impoundment area caused by the unusually heavy rains brought by Supertyphoon Lawin and a breach in the drain tunnel of the underground Antamok mine has been put under control. No further leaks have been observed to date. Preliminary estimates showed only a negligible 50,000 metric tons of tailings material leaked into Liang River which is substantially less compared to previous incidents in other mines where more than 20 million metric tons were spilled.
Immediate water composition analysis conducted by the company along the Liang river shows that all components are well within standard levels. Samples will be sent to a third party for an independent laboratory analysis.
The company underscored that there have been no reports of undue harm to individuals. Possible damages to private property if there be any, is being verified. Discussions have also been held with the local communities.
In an earlier letter to EMB-CAR Regional Director Reynaldo Digamo and MGB-CAR Fay W. Apil, the company declared that upon receipt of the reported intermittent leak of mine tailings, it mobilized its workforce and equipment to the site to undertake the appropriate pre-emptive measures, particularly construction of containment dams downstream of the Liang river; clean-up of spilled tailings; installation of power lights at the Liang Tailings impoundment area, notice of warning to the community, syphoning of water from the pipe-out area to minimize hydraulic pressure build-up and reduction of stopper boards of the penstock to enhance the discharge of water from the tailings area. The company will likewise implement the dewatering from 440 open pit, diversion of surface run-off water to the penstock away from the tailings area, backfilling and construction of a counter-drive to plug the Antamok drain tunnel and backfilling of the pipe-out. This was made in coordination with the MGB, EMB, LGU and the local community.
The company pointed out the Antamok open pit mine has not operated since 1998 while the Antamok underground mine has not been operated since 1989. The impounded tailings have thus solidified due to the long period of time that it remained idle. However, the company emphasized the said open pit and underground mines had been on continuous care and maintenance through the years and technical studies have been going on for possible tailings reprocessing project and conversion of the open pit to water reservoir for a bulk water project, engineered sanitary landfill (ESL) to waste-to-energy projects and Minahang Bayan. The Antamok mine tailings area also serves as a catchment for mine tailings from the rampant unregulated small-scale mining activities in the upstream area.
The assurance was made by the company that it is continuously implementing the necessary corrective and permanent measures to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future that might pose a serious threat to life and limb in the affected area. This will be in coordination with the MGB, the EMB, the LGU and the community.