Itogon, Benguet — Benguet Corporation (BC) took responsibility for the tailings leak at Antamok here after the typhoons.
BC in a statement, however, assured alarmed villagers that the leak was minor. There have been no reports of undue harm to individuals while possible damage to private property is still being verified by the mining firm.
“[T]he minor leak of mine tailings discovered from Antamok tailings impoundment area caused by the unusually heavy rains brought by Super Typhoon Lawin and a breach in the drain tunnel of the underground Antamok mine has been put under control,” it said.
BC said preliminary estimates showed 50,000 metric tons of tailings material leaked into Liang River, which it said is substantially less compared to previous incidents in other mines.
BC said that its Antamok open pit mine has not been operating since 1998, while the Antamok underground mine was shut down since 1989. It said the impounded tailings have solidified due to the long period of time it remained idle.
The mining firm said that the open pit and underground mines have been under continuous care and maintenance. It added that technical studies have been going on for a possible project to reprocess tailings and conversion of the open pit mine into a water reservoir for a bulk water project for Baguio City. Conversion into an engineered sanitary landfill for a waste-to-energy project is also being considered.
The Antamok mine tailings area also serves as a catchment for mine tailings from the small-scale mining activities in the upstream area, BC said.
BC is one of the mining companies in the country that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recommended for suspension after an industry-wide audit last August.
The firm, however, contested the suspension order of the DENR insisting that it had not been remiss in caring for the environment while it continued to rehabilitate the open pit mines in the area.
Anti-mining groups, however, have shrugged off BC’s claim as indigenous peoples in the area have been economically and culturally displaced.