Temporary halt to Benguet Corp. operations urged

Source: 
Giovani Joy Fontanilla - http://www.sunstar.com.ph/baguio/local-news/2015/04/01/temporary-halt-benguet-corp-operations-urged-400753
Date of publication: 
1 April, 2015

ITOGON Mayor Victorio Palangdan wants Benguet Corporation’s operations temporarily suspended.

Palangdan is seeking for the issuance of an order for temporary suspension of the operation of the Benguet Corporation and its contractor ACMP Contractors in Itogon, Benguet from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-CAR.

In a letter dated March 5, 2015, the mayor raised the threats of danger brought about by Benguet Corp.‘s Tailings Storage Facility No. 2 which was approved to be raised up to 775 meters above sea level (masl).

“The daily discharge of mine wastes generated due to the operation of the BC-ACMP to the company’s Tailing’s Storage Facility No. 2 or Phase II is posing great dangers to its adjacent and low-lying communities,” he said.

“The daily disposal of tons of fresh tails including waste water thereat contributes to the weakening of the dam due to water saturation hence there is already an established great probability of its untimely collapse,” he added.

With the rainy season approaching, Palangdan wants appropriate action and the best prevention he thinks is the temporary stoppage of the mining company’s operation.

Palangdan claimed the company’s facility still lack proof of structural integrity and stability as he listed factors which could contribute to the possible occurrence of a disaster.

These include the non-functional penstocks; the non-functional and partially renovated diversion tunnels; the lack of a spillway and the fact that the dam has already exceeded its allowable freeboard.

Palangdan also alleged Benguet Corp. failed to secure a Certificate of Pre-Condition as required under the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, proof of endorsement from its host communities and a construction permit.

He also said the community has not been paying the appropriate taxes and it has not been complying with its commitments and responsibilities to host communities, one of which is the relocation site for the affected households.

In response to the issues and concerns raised by Palangdan, Benguet Corp. general manager Engr. Valeriano Bongalos Jr. wrote a letter to the MGB-CAR to clarify the allegations.

Bongalos noted the company has been faithfully complying with the commitments it has given to its host communities in Batuang, Lower Dalicno, Maligaya, Poblacion, Dalupirip and Tinongdan.

He acknowledged the claim the mining company was not able to acquire a Certificate of Pre-Condition, but clarified it was because the National Commission on Indigenous People’s no longer required them as the facility has been existing before the IPRA law was passed.

For the spillway, while funds have long been prepared, the general manager explained they cannot implement the construction due to pending claimant’s issues which it is still waiting to be resolved.

The mining firm has also completed the rehabilitation of some two diversion tunnels while some other repair works are ongoing.

In addition, Bongalos refuted claims that Benguet Corp. has not been paying its tax obligations and has not been complying to its commitments and obligations such as the identification of relocation site and contingency plan.

“BC would like to reiterate that there are no substantial and valid grounds to cause the suspension, stoppage or closure of its mine operations,” said Bongalos.

“It has not committed any violations of mining laws, rules and regulations, nor has its operation been cited by the regulatory agencies for any serious breaches or lapses of its environmental duties.

Bongalos said while he appreciates the mayor’s concern, suspending the mining firm’s operation will only cause loss of employment and jobs and will worsen the scenario of the tailings facility as constructions or rehabilitation works which serves as mitigating measures will not be implemented.