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A Philippine gold mining firm said on Friday waste had leaked from one of its mines due to heavy rains, forcing the government to shut down production.
Chief mining regulator Leo Jasareno said the government was assessing the potential hazards posed by the tailings spill at the Padcal mine, though Philex Mining, the country's top gold mining firm, denied the discharge was toxic.
“We have issued a suspension order on the mine,” Jasareno told AFP by telephone as he drove to the mine, located near the northern mountain resort of Baguio. There were no reported casualties.
“Philex is exerting its maximum effort to address the accidental discharge, and has mobilised the requisite resources in this regard,” the company said in a statement.
The accident came amid an intense public debate in the Philippines on the mining industry.
The Philippines is believed to have some of the biggest mineral reserves in the world - the government estimates the country has at least $840 billion in gold, copper, nickel, chromite, manganese, silver and iron ore deposits.
However, the minerals have been largely untapped, partly because of a strong anti-mining movement led by the influential Catholic Church, while poor infrastructure and security concerns have also kept investors away.
Last month President Benigno Aquino signed an executive order imposing more restrictions to protect the environment and local communities while seeking to increase royalties from mining firms.
As the government prepared a bill seeking to raise government revenues from the country's extensive mineral wealth, Aquino said no new mining permits would be approved until parliament passed a law giving the state a greater share.
Typhoon Saola induced widespread flooding across the northern Philippines this week that claimed at least 23 lives. - Sapa-AFP