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Inter-agency body sets ocular visit of Padcal mine next month means BUSINESS

MANILA - The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) will visit the Padcal copper-gold mine to assess how far Philex Mining Corp has progressed in rehabilitating its tailings pond.

Presidential Adviser on Environmental Protection Neric Acosta told reporters on Monday that the inter-agency body he chairs will visit the mine in Benguet province by the second weekend of August.

"We have decided from the last MICC, to be very fair, we will visit Philex para sabayan na rin yung NGOs and other sectors who also have their own position papers," he said on the sidelines of the fourth State of the Nation Address of President Benigno Aquino III.

This would help the MICC in deciding whether or not to shift responsibility over the mine tailings leak to National Power Corp (Napocor) or keep it under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

"We'll hold off [deciding on] that until we really see if it's really there [rehabilitation work] in the site. If the MICC is sort of the clearing house for all of these, by all means we owe this actual ocular [inspection]," Acosta said.

To recall, Philex voluntarily suspended operations at the Padcal mine after a tailings pond broke down in late July of last year on the back of torrential rains, sending mine waste downhill and into parts of the Agno River and the Balog Creek.

The Agno River is connected to the San Roque watershed, which is under the jurisdiction of Napocor. The state-run firm earlier sent Philex a letter demanding the payment of P6 billion for the cleanup of the river.

The MICC will also help in deciding whether Philex must be given a permanent permit to operate again.

Philex secured earlier this month a clearance to continue operations at the Padcal mine beyond the life of its four-month temporary permit that expired on July 7.

The government issued a suspension order and slapped Philex with a penalty of at least P1 billion for violating its environmental compliance certificate and the Clean Water Act.