ITOGON, Benguet – An independent study jointly commissioned by the management of the Benguet Corporation (BC) and the environment department to conduct validation on the alleged contamination of the Ambalanga, Liang and Agno river systems from the October 27, 2016 accidental leak of its tailings pond found out that the water samples from the various sampling stations along the same river systems passed the standards of the environment department.
BC management submitted to the Cordillera office of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB-CAR) the results of the independent third party laboratory analysis of the water sampling made by CRL Laboratories along different areas of the rivers that were reportedly affected by the accidental tailings leak.
The CRL, which is an accredited laboratory by the environment department, reported that the water samples taken from the various water sampling stations were below the limits set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Among the water sampling stations that were subjected to assessment and evaluation included the Asin Dalupirip; Depey, Tinongdan; Baloy, Tinongdan; Apechay, Poblacion; Apechay-Ambalangan convergence; Colbath, Balisong; Laing penstock and Liang dam.
On the other hand, the various tests conducted on the water samples included shimadzu analytical methods, atomic absorption spectrophotometry, standard methods for the examination of water and waste water.
Lawyer Froilan Roger C. Lawilao, BC administration department head, revealed clean up along the stretch of the Liang river and its downstream was completed by the company last January 7, 2017 and it was subsequently reported to the EMB-CAR and the regional office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-CAR) for the purpose of the conduct of joint ocular inspection to validate such report.
The BC official said the final decision on the possibility of the company being fined for the accidental leak of its Antamok tailings pond now lies with the Pollution Adjudication board (PAB) which is the agency primarily tasked to make their rulings on the matter, thus, the earlier reports on the company being imposed millions of pesos in fines are considered to be premature.
According to him, since the accidental tailings leak, the company had mobilized volunteers and personnel to conduct the massive clean-up of the Liang river until it was reported to have been cleaned, thus, illustrating their desire to perform the needed measures to prevent the various river systems from being contaminated.
“We remain committed to our responsibility to cleanup whatever areas that were affected by the accidental tailings leak. We believe we were able to comply with the mandates of the law to ensure that the river systems will be spared from the hazards of mining,” Lawilao stressed.
The EMB-CAR and the MGB-CAR are expected to come out with their own findings and recommendations which will be subsequently transmitted to the PAB for final adjudication.
BC is one of the large-scale mining companies operating in the province and is considered to be the country’s oldest mining company that traces its operations back in 1903.
By Dexter A. See