Masbate gold mine cleared to operate

Published August 31, 2020, 6:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The country’s top gold producer, Masbate Gold Project, has already been cleared to operate by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) after the strong earthquake that shook the province of Masbate two weeks ago.

This clarification was issued by MGB Director Wilfredo Moncano following Masbate Governor Antonio Kho’s request for the government agency to suspend the project’s operator, Filminera Resources Corporation, amid alleged environmental violations. 

The Masbate Gold Project, currently the Philippines’ top gold producer, is owned by Canadian mining company B2Gold, which holds 40 percent interest in Filminera and a 100 percent interest in Philippine Gold Processing & Refining Corporation (PGPRC).  

During the first half of the year, the project produced 2,909 kilograms of gold worth P7.72 billion, accounting for 35 percent of the country’s total production of the yellow metal from January to June.

In a text exchange, Moncano told Business Bulletin that Filminera followed the post-earthquake Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and already temporarily stopped its operation after the aforementioned calamity. 
Under this SOP, the mining firm’s in-house safety and technical division must inspect and check if there are signs of weakness or failure on the various mine infrastructures such as the tailings storage facility, waste dump, mine pits, the processing plant complex, roads, pipelines, buildings, etc. after the earthquake.

The in-house inspection team will then report their findings in the fastest possible means to MGB and other agencies.

As for MGB, it should be able to send at the earliest possible a composite team of geologists, geotechnical engineers, safety inspectors and other experts to validate the report of the company.

“There were no deformations, tension cracks or other signs of weakness or failure. This was validated by the composite team after three or four days of thorough inspection of the various mine infrastructure using the result of the different instruments installed in the mine like geotechnical monitoring station, slope stability radar, windshield survey instrument, and walk-through visual inspections,” Moncano said.

“The findings were reported to the Sanggunian Panlalawigan in a special session. With that finding, the composite team recommended the lifting of the temporary suspension and resumption of mining operation,” he added.

Moncano also noted that the inspection was witnessed and joined by the local government unit of Masbate and its Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO).

In an earlier report in Manila Bulletin, Kho said that Masbate’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) has approved a resolution requesting MGB to immediately halt the operation of Filminera for lacking an MGB-standard waste disposal facility.

“Filminera failed to upgrade their tailing pond containing wastes from 59 meters to 71 meters in elevation. This is susceptible to spillage that will pose serious risk to the community,” Kho said in the previous report.

According to him, 40,000 residents are in danger because of any spillage once a strong earthquake hits the province again.