Philex's Padcal mine, the biggest mining disaster of the Philippines

Responsible mining? The Philex Padcal mine caused the largest mine tailing spill in terms of volumes of toxic tailings. Groups protest to stop the mine.


On August 1, 2012, a massive mining spill causing the release of 20.6 million tons of toxic tailings into water bodies, occurred at the Philex Padcal mine, located in Benguet province. In terms of volume, the spill was ten times larger than the unprecedented 1996 Marcopper mine disaster. While the Padcal spill contained less toxic material per ton of tailings, the much larger volume heavily contaminated the region [1]. The Padcal mine is further located on ancestral lands of the Igorot tribes. While Philex profited billions from the mine, the company left behind vast destruction of livelihoods, indigenous cultures and ways of life [2]. It was not the first time that incidents were recorded for the Padcal mine: also in the 1980s and 1990s, two tailings storage ponds collapsed, and another small spill occurred in one of the ponds few years before the 2012 disaster [1].

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Basic Data
NamePhilex's Padcal mine, the biggest mining disaster of the Philippines
ProvinceBenguet province
SiteTuba municipality, Itogon municipality
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Land acquisition conflicts
Tailings from mines
Mineral processing
Specific CommoditiesCopper
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsAccording to the company’s website, the Padcal mine was under operation since 1958 and is under 12 mineral holding agreements. An aggregate 95ha are located in Benguet province and are subject to royalties paid to indigenous claim holders [8].

According to official MGB documents, as of November, 2014 the Philex Mining Corporation holds three MPSA for Copper and Gold in Tuba, Benguet, amounting to 4,928.4215ha (156-00-CAR), 2,958.1390ha (157-00-CAR) and 80.6688ha (276-2009-CAR), respectively [9].

According to the 2010 population census, the population of Tuba municipality amounts to around 43,000 people, while the population of Itogon municipality amounts to 56,000 persons [10]. These numbers may serve as a very rough approximation of persons directly and indirectly affected of the large negative environmental impacts.

The Philippine company Philex Mining Corporation and its subsidiaries are involved in mining business and energy business. Philex Mining Corporation was founded in 1955 and listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange in 1956. It has several subsidiaries that operate different mines in the country [1]. The Padcal mine, located in Benguet, producing copper, gold and silver concentrate, is one of the company’s mines. Large amounts of the copper concentrate are shipped to Japan for smelting by Pan Pacific Copper Company Limited, a joint venture between Nippon Mining Co. Ltd. and Mitsui Mining and Smelting Co. Ltd. [1].

As of December 31, 2014; main stockholders (larger than 5%) of Philex Mining Corporation are Asia Link B.V (20.71%), Social Security System (20.53%); PCD Nominee Corp. (20.46); Two Rivers Pacific Holding Corp. (14.96%) [8].

Production data for the Padcal Mine for the year before the disaster (2011), amounted to a total of around 9 million tons milled. Gold production was at 140,113 ounces for 2011, at 0.564 grams per ton; Copper production in 2011 was at 37,995,132 ounces, with Copper head grades at 0.221% [8].

Benguet province is a large gold producer in the country. Apart from Philex Mining Corporation, other companies are mining in the area, such as Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation, or Benguet Corporation. The mining firms contribute to around 98% of the province export revenues [1].
Project Area (in hectares)4,928.4215 + 2,958.1390 + 80.6688ha (Philex's MPSAs in Tuba, as of Nov. 2014)
Level of Investment (in USD)unknown
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population10,000-100,000 (directly and indirectly)
Start Date01/08/2012
Company Names or State EnterprisesPhilex Mining Corporation from Philippines - mining, energy
Asia Link B. V. from Netherlands - fund management, assets
PCD Nominee Corporation from Philippines
Two Rivers Pacific Holdings Corporation from Philippines - investment
Pan Pacific Copper Co. Ltd. from Japan - mineral processing
Nippon Mining Co. Ltd. from Japan - mineral processing
Mitsui Mining and Smelting Co. Ltd. from Japan - mineral processing
Relevant government actorsMines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB);

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)

Environment and Management Bureau (EMB)
International and Financial InstitutionsDevelopment Bank of the Philippines from Philippines
Social Security System Philippines from Philippines
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersKalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP); Pangbasan Goldpanners and Fisherfolks Livelihood Association; The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines – National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA); Climate Change Congress of the Philippines (CCCP); Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) and it Northern Luzon Cluster; Peace Foundation, Inc.; Pambansang Kaisahan ng mga Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (PKMP); Katribu Indigenous Peoples' Partylist; Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA); Caritas Baguio; Community Volunteer Missioners (CVM); Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment; Center for Environmental Concerns Philippines; Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham); Philex Watch, and others.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingArtisanal miners
International ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Religious groups
Local ejos
Fisher people
Local government/political parties
Trade unions
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local scientists/professionals
Industrial workers
Igorot tribes of Benguet province
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills, Noise pollution
Potential: Genetic contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
OtherExposure to heavy metals, related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Strengthening of participation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Application of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
Development of AlternativesSome NGOs demanded a proper compensation and clean-up of the damages caused. Other groups demand the definitive suspension of the Padcal mine
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The mine was allowed to continue in spite of evidence of irresponsible planning and vast environmental destruction.
Sources and Materials

The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA)
[click to view]

Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004
[click to view]

Philippine Mining Act of 1995
[click to view]


[5] PIPLINKS online (12/07/2013) "Philex mine resumption a precedent for more environmental crimes" (Accessed 22/04/2015)
[click to view]

[2] online (XXXX): "Philex still needs to clean up, pay compensation - indigenous peoples. (accessed 22/04/2015)
[click to view]

[7] Rappler online (28/08/2014): "Gov’t lifts suspension on Philex’s Padcal mine" (accessed 22/04/2015)
[click to view]

[8] Philex Mining Corporation Company Website
[click to view]

[10] 2010 National Population Census
[click to view]

[4] KALIKASAN Press Release (28/11/2012): "Walk the talk on punishment of Philex mine disaster, DENR told" (accessed 22/04/2015)
[click to view]

[6] Manila Bulletin online (31/08/2014): "Group protests resumption of mining operation in Benguet" (accessed 22/04/2015)
[click to view]

News report on the involvement of the Development Bank of the Philippines in Philex Mining
[click to view]

Media Links

Video: Philex Mine Spill: results of CSO investigation released (Part 1)
[click to view]

Other Documents

Philex mine tailing spills Source: ATM
[click to view]

[1] The Philex Mine Tailings Spills of 2012: An Independent Fact-Finding Mission Report. September, 2012. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines – National Secretariat for Social Action,

Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA) * Climate Change Congress of the Philippines (CCCP)*

Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) and it Northern Luzon Cluster * Peace Foundation,

Inc. * Pambansang Kaisahan ng mga Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (PKMP) *

Katribu Indigenous Peoples' Partylist * Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) * Caritas Baguio *

Community Volunteer Missioners (CVM)
[click to view]

[3] Arturo Boquiren, 7 May 2013: Philex Mine Spill: Not due to Typhoon Saola (Gener), it is a Test on “Responsible Mining”.
[click to view]

[9] Official MGB document on approved MPSA, Nov. 2014
[click to view]

Protests during Philex mining stockholders meeting Source:
[click to view]

Protests against the Padcal mine Source:
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorA. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) and Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
Last update24/04/2015