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MANILA – (AFP) – A waste spillage at the Philippines’ largest gold mine has been contained after the slime threatened to contaminate one of the country’s largest rivers, the government said Saturday.
The Padcal mine, located near the major northern mountain resort of Baguio, would remain closed until the safety and integrity of its tailings pond was assured, civil defence office administrator Benito Ramos told AFP.
“The leak was already contained and leak from the tailings pond already sealed and repaired by Philex,” Ramos said, referring to the mine operator Philex Mining.
Government scientists were dispatched to check the possible effect of the discharge on aquatic life and the quality of water on the Agno River and a tributary after the August 1 discharge, he said.
However, the team concluded the slime and silt did not reach the Agno and the San Roque dam, one of the country’s largest, Ramos added.
Both the government and the company gave no estimates on how much mining waste had been discharged, nor when the mine would resume operations.
Philex vice president Mike Toledo insisted the spillage consisted only of water and sediment, which he said was “non-toxic and biodegradable”. The discharge caused no casualties, he added.
The company said heavy rain from successive tropical cyclones, including Typhoon Saola that killed at least 39 people earlier in the week according to an updated government count, had weakened the tailings pond structure.
The company’s shares plunged 7.59 percent on Friday after news of the spill and shutdown were made public.
The accident came amid intense public debate about the mining industry in the Philippines, which is believed to have some of the biggest mineral reserves in the world.
However the wealth has been largely untapped, partly because of a strong anti-mining movement, while poor infrastructure and security concerns have also kept investors away.