By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Cordillera recommended Benguet Corporation an initial P24 million fine for polluting the Liang, Ambalanga and Agno rivers.
Director Reynaldo Digamo of EMB Cordillera said the P24M only covers fines from October 27 to November 15. He said BC will continue to be fined on a daily basis until they finish removing the mine tailings that spilled to the rivers due to a breach at the old Antamok open pit.
Digamo said the EMB region will forward its recommendation to the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) who will ultimately decide on BC’s penalties.
“Our job here at EMB is to find probable cause, like how the prosecutor’s office works and then forward our findings and recommendations to PAB, that will evaluate and decide on the case, like that of the Regional Trial Court,” Digamo said.
The EMB director said the fine is computed according to the provisions of the Clean Water Act. The law provides that the erring company be charged P200,000 per day.
Digamo explained that the BC will face three counts of violation of the Clean Water Act for polluting three rivers. “So the fine will be tripled,” he said.
Digamo disclosed that the water level at the old mine tunnels “is at a stand still”. “The volume of water going out is equivalent to the water coming in that is why,” he said.
He said the accumulated water at the old mine site must be removed before the breach could be plugged. “But the company has yet to find the source of the water,” he added.
He said the company hired a consultancy firm to locate the source of the water flooding the old mine site. He added that in an effort to drain the accumulated water, the company is building a drainage canal direct to the penstock to increase water discharge.
Digamo said pressure from the accumulated water at the open pit caused the outbursts on October 27 and 28 that released at least 50,000 metric tons of silt into the Liang River that converges with the Ambalanga river before flowing into the Agno River.
Digamo said there is still a minimal discharge of mine tailings from the company’s tailings pond.
But the tailings spilling into the river was contained last November 7. He explained that the mine tailings flowing out from the old Antamok open pit is diverted to a temporary containment area to prevent it from flowing into the river. He said that a temporary containment area was built at the collbath outlet.
Digamo said BC can appeal the fine at the PAB. # nordis.net