ITOGON, Benguet – The Cordillera offices of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-CAR) and Environmental Management Bureau (EMB-CAR) cited the management of the Benguet Corporation (BC) for the accidental leak of non-toxic materials from its Antamok tailings pond last month with stiffer penalties based on future assessments to be conducted by the different investigating agencies.
Engr. Faye Apil, MGB-CAR regional director, said initial assessments conducted by the members of a technical team found that the company is liable for an initial fine of P2.5 million computed as P50 per metric ton of waste discharged from the tailings pond that spilled at least 50,000 metric tons of tailings waste to the Lian River.
However, Apil claimed the accidental leak will still be subject to investigation by the agency considering that they will try to ascertain the opening created from the tailings pond to determine the volume of waste that spilled over the river, thus, the need for the on-going cleanup activities to be completed by the company before the final assessment can be done.
“We have to wait for the completion of the on-gong cleanup operations being undertaken in the different river systems for us to be able to come out with a realistic assessment of the actual volume of waste that spilled,” Apil stressed.
On the other hand, Reynaldo S. Digamo, EMB-CAR regional director, admitted that the initial P24 million imposed by the agency to BC management is just an initial fine from the date of the spill last October 27 up to November 15 and still counting until such time that the rivers shall have been cleared of the tailings waste.
Digamo claimed investigators were able to find out that the river systems in the Antamok area were contaminated with pollutants, thus, the need to impose the mandatory penalties against the mining company until such it is able to effectively and efficiently address the leakage.
He explained their findings were already submitted to the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) which will decide on whether or not the company will be liable for the accidental leak and fix the fine it will pay to the government for damages caused by the leak caused to the river systems.
The MGB-CAR AND EMB-CAR said continuous monitoring is done by the various government personnel on the activities being conducted by the mining company to address the problem and prevent the contamination of the water in the river systems after the leak.
Representatives of both regulating agencies are doing routine monitoring of the activities of the company in cleaning the river systems from the effects of the tailings water that leaked from the company’s abandoned tailings pond while company officials and employees are doing the round the clock cleanup activities to free the rivers from the tailings waste.