Philippine gold mine to pay huge fine for spill

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The Philippines' largest gold miner will pay a record fine of 1.034 billion pesos ($25.2 million) for a waste spill after the government refused a petition to waive the penalty, officials said on Wednesday.

Philex Mining will also work with the official Mines and Geosciences Bureau to clean up the spill so that the mine concerned can resume operations by the second half of this year, a Philex official said.

The company's main mining site in the northern mountain district of Padcal suffered a spill of mine waste or "tailings" in August after the area was hit by two powerful typhoons. The mine's operations have since been suspended.

The company had asked the bureau waive the charge, saying it had not been remiss in maintaining the pond that held the tailings.

But the mining bureau on Tuesday turned down their request.

Philex spokesman Mike Toledo said the company would now pay the fine, which will be used to regenerate the areas damaged by the spill and compensate those affected.

"We will cooperate with the MGB and pay 1.034 billion and submit a workplan and budget estimate for the rehabilitation," he told AFP.

"We will always comply with our obligations under the law. We want to show that responsible mining is possible in the Philippines."

He said that once this penalty is paid and the rehabilitation is completed, the suspension can be lifted and the mine can resume operations.

A mining bureau spokesman said the company had until February 19 to pay. The agency will then work with Philex in the rehabilitation.

"For now, we are talking about rehabilitation. So they pay the penalty first and set up rehab facilities," he said.

The mining bureau said the tailings consisted of a huge volume of powdered sediment that was not extremely toxic but polluted and silted up nearby waterways.

Philex had previously insisted the spillage consisted only of water and sediment, which were "non-toxic and biodegradable".

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.

The wealth remains largely untapped, partly because of a strong anti-mining movement, uncertainty over regulations, poor infrastructure and security concerns.

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