SAN JOSE, Occidental Mindoro – Three miners died in a landslide Friday in an open-pit mine in nearby Semirara Island while six were still buried in the rubble, a local official said.
Kagawad Jun Garcia of Barangay Semirara in the town of Caluya said the Semirara Mining and Power Corp. sent a search-and-rescue team to find the six missing miners.
A company statement said the northern edge of the Panian mine gave way at about 3:45 a.m. Friday.
Of the three dead, only one, Jun Panes, 54, was identified by his full name. The two other fatalities were identified only by their surnames Umac and Nudo.
The Energy Department ordered the immediate suspension of the company’s coal mining contract on Semirara Island and formed a team to investigate the accident.
The landslide, which occurred in a reclaimed area of the northeastern part of the island, was the second major disaster to hit the Semirara company owned by D.M. Consunji, Inc. In February 2013, seven miners were killed when the west wall of the pit collapsed and trapped 13 miners under it.
Garcia said Friday’s landslide was triggered by seawater that seeped into the sand wall of the reclaimed area in the northeastern part of Semirara Island.
“The weather was good and it was warm when the landslide occurred at 4 a.m.,” Garcia said.
But Antique Gov. Rhodora Cadiao told radio station dzBB that it had rained heavily for days.
“The accident happened… while the workers were working on a water system,” she said.
Isidro Consunji, chief executive of Semirara Mining, said only nine workers were at the site when the accident happened.
“Three bodies have been recovered as of this time and digging continues to look for six others,” he said. “That’s as far as I know. Some of our mining equipment has also been damaged. We don’t have the complete details yet.”
Semirara, a unit of Philippine conglomerate DMCI Holdings Inc., is the country’s largest coal miner.
Many residents depend on Semirara Mining for their livelihood. The mining company employs some 3,000 workers and provides them free housing plus free electricity of up to 300 kilowatts monthly.
The municipality of Caluya, which has jurisdiction over the island, received a royalty share of P290 million last year.
In a letter to Semirara Mining, Energy Department officer-in-charge Zenaida Monsada ordered the suspension of its coal mining on the island and informed the company that an investigative team would look into the incident.
“Our prayers are with the families of the victims and we have directed Semirara Mining to focus on search and rescue operations,” Monsada said.
Semirara, in a separate statement, said that around 3:45 a.m. of July 17, a portion of the northern edge of Panian mine gave way.
Semirara said management has condoled with the families of the victims and is giving them full support.
“The company will help the victim’s family,” Consunji said.
The company said it is also coordinating with national and local authorities to keep them updated on the search and rescue efforts and other necessary measures including ensuring the adequate supply of coal for power generation since it has stopped operations in the affected area in compliance with an order from the Energy Department.
“The company is investigating the cause of the accident in coordination with authorities,” it said. With Sandy Araneta