Philippines govt may fine Philex for mine leaks - minister
MANILA, Sept 11
MANILA, Sept 11 (Reuters) - The government may fine the Philippine's biggest miner Philex Mining Corp at least 1 billion pesos ($24 million) for leaks out of its now shut Padcal gold and copper mine, the environment minister said on Tuesday.
Water and sediment from the mine are flowing to a river supplying water to a major power plant on the main Luzon island and the company, the country's top gold and copper miner, is struggling to contain the leaks which began last month, said Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje.
"We will not compromise the environment. They have to give us an assurance that the leaks have been stopped," Paje told a news briefing. "The (mine) closure is indefinite for now."
Philex spokesman Michael Toledo said the company had yet to receive formal notice from the government about the fines, and called the figures mentioned by Paje "questionable".
Philex first discovered leaks in the tailings pond at its Padcal mine in northern Benguet province in early August after two weeks of heavy rains.
Paje said Philex must also pay the government 200,000 pesos a day until all the leaks have been plugged.
Last month Philex Chairman Manuel Pangilinan said the company's gold and copper exports would be suspended from September as a result of Padcal's closure.
Philex, controlled by Hong Kong-listed conglomerate First Pacific Co Ltd, earns more than 1 billion pesos a month from gold and copper exports.
It sells about 60 percent of Padcal's output to Japan's biggest copper smelter, Pan Pacific Copper, and the rest to smelters in South Korea and China.
Shares in Philex rose 1.8 percent on Tuesday, rebounding from heavy losses in recent days, as the broader market was flat. The stock has lost nearly 30 percent since it closed the Padcal mine on Aug. 1. (Reporting by Erik dela Cruz; Editing by Rosemarie Francisco and Miral Fahmy)
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