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DENR lifts suspension order on Aroroy mines

LEGAZPI CITY --- The Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, (DENR) has recently lifted the suspension orders on mining activities it previously issued to Filminera Resources Corp., (Filminera) and Phil Gold Processing & Refining Corp. (PGPRC) in Aroroy town in Masbate province.

Guillermo Molina, MGB Bicol regional director, said the agency team sent to conduct an assessment on the possible effects of the Aug. 18 6.6 magnitude earthquake in Masbate on the Aroroy mine site of the two companies, has recommended that the mining firms be allowed to resume operation after the mine tailing dam of the two firms was found to be in stable condition.

Molina said the suspension of the Filminera mining operation was due to the request of Masbate Gov. Antonio Kho, who acted on a Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) resolution, requesting for the closure and an assessment of the mining firm’s mine tailing dam, which they allegedly claimed may have been damaged by the quake.

The MGB director said that DENR Bicol regional executive director Antonio Abawag, upon receipt of Kho’s request, immediately issued a Special Order (SO) to MGB to conduct a full assessment to determine the stability of the tailing dam.

He said the assessment report indicated that the earthquake did not in any way damage the mine storage facility (tailing dam) saying “there was no minor damage or even a movement on the dam structure.”

Molina said that since there was no imminent danger to the dam stability there was no reason why it operation should be suspended.

To resolve the issue, the DENR and the Masbate provincial government have agreed to engage the services of an independent third party to conduct a thorough investigation to determine the stability of the dam as to its construction and other technical and engineering aspects of the facility.

According to Molina, the provincial government would hire a separate third party investigator, while the DENR would also engage the services of the Mine Rehabilitation Fund Committee composed of the DENR, MGB , EMB, and a representative from the mining company.

Together the third party engaged by both parties would conduct the assessment and issue a recommendation, he said.

On the side of the mining firm, Marionne Ruiz, Filminers spokesperson, confirmed that inspection was conducted at the mine site in Aroroy, by a team of experts from the DENR-MGB.

She said that at the exit conference attended by community stakeholders, the local government units, Filminera and PGPRC representatives, MGB, and DENR reported that their inspection showed there were neither damages nor injuries within the mine site.

The management of Filminera and PGPRC temporarily stopped mining on Aug. 21 to give way to the inspection team and resumed normal operations on Aug. 27.

Ruiz, quoting Filminera President Cris Acosta, said that the results of the inspection confirmed the initial result sent to the MGB regional office right after the Aug. 18 earthquake that there was no damage to the structures and equipment at the mine site.

Filminera’s initial inspection was conducted by in-house technical experts and third-party consultant GHD, which is a reputable international technical consultant.

Meanwhile the mining firm turned over P 5 million in earthquake relief financial assistance as well as 100 sacks of rice and 50 folding beds to officials of the Cataingan local government unit (LGU).

The total combined earthquake relief from Filminera and PGPRC to the Cataingan LGU amounted to P5.28 million.

An additional P 1 million worth of relief goods and building materials will be donated to other towns in Masbate, particularly to the communities and households that were severely affected by the earthquake aside from those in Cataingan.

Cataingan is the town hardest-hit by the 6.6 earthquake last Aug. 18, which struck the island province of Masbate.

The earthquake had an epicenter located seven kilometers off Cataingan with a depth of 21 kilometers. Cataingan is 150 kilometers away from the Filminera mine site in Aroroy town.

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