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Five miners killed, five missing as Semirara coal mine collapses

February 14, 2013 9:56am

Tags: Antique
(Updated 12.03 p.m., Feb. 15, 2013) Five miners have been confirmed dead, three others were rescued while five remain missing after a large-scale commercial coal mine on Semirara Island in Antique collapsed late Wednesday night, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRMC) said Thursday night.

In a statement, resident manager George San Pedro of the Semirara Mining Corporation confirmed the developments, saying a section of the west wall of the Panian pit in the mine gave way at 11:55 p.m. Wednesday.

Semirara is the nation's only large-scale coal producer. On the company website, there is no mention of mine safety or workplace safeguards, except for a line about an ISO certification for its "Safety Management System."
The statement said the corporation has stopped its operations while it is in the process of determining the accident's cause in coordination with authorities.
It is the deadliest large-scale mining accident in recent memory. There have been at least eight fatal incidents inside small-scale, mostly illegal mines in the Philippines since 2008, according to GMA News Research, including two tragedies in Paracale, Camarines Norte in 2012, a gold-rush community in Bicol.

But large companies like Semirara are supposed to have safeguards that smaller operations do not have.

Satellite image dated September 2011 showing the open pit mines of Semirara. Google Maps
San Pedro said the company is extending "full support" to the families of the affected personnel.

In a separate statement, the Department of the Interior and Local Government identified the survivors as Marjun Catoto, Adrian Celmar and Leonardo Sojor.

DILG Sec. Mar Roxas II has directed local government officials in Antique and Caluya town, as well as the Philippine National Police in Region 6, to lead the search and rescue operations for the trapped miners, the statement said.

Large-scale coal producer

The Semirara Mining Corporation describes itself as the only large-scale coal producer in the Philippines. It is engaged in surface open cut mining of thermal coal in its Panian mine on Semirara Island, where the mine collapse occurred.

In 2009, the company was accused of polluting Semirara's coastal resources with wastes from its coal washing plant. The company denied the allegation.
Earlier on Thursday, Western Visayas police head Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr. said search-and-rescue operations were ongoing for the trapped miners as of 9 a.m.

"Dito sa Region 6, medyo nag-uulan nang bahagya tuwing hapon hanggang gabi ... nagkaroon ng landslide sa open pit ng Semirara Mining," Cruz told dzBB radio.

Map showing the location of Semirara Island. It is located between the islands of Mindoro and Panay. It is under the jurisdiction of the Municipality of Caluya and the province of Antique, Region 6. Google Maps

Citing initial reports, he said three miners were rescued from the collapsed mine site. One of the victims was flown to Manila while two only had minor injuries.
Meanwhile, Caluya vice mayor Diosdado Egina told GMA News TV's "Balitanghali" that Semirara Mining Corporation's personnel, together with the local police, are conducting search and retrieval operations.

Egina also said representatives from various agencies including the Department of Labor and Employment, the office of the governor of Antique, and the Antique Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council are set to conduct an investigation on the incident.

Mining victims

Data compiled by GMA News Research since 2008 on fatalities from mining-related operations show that most victims were working in small-scale mining areas.

Sept. 22, 2008 Itogon, Benguet Six small-scale miners died when they were trapped inside a flooded mine tunnel at the Antamok Gold Field. Ten others were rescued, most of them after nine days in the tunnel.
May 18, 2009 Brgy. Napnapan, Pantukan, Compostela Valley Heavy rain for two days caused a landslide that buried the bunk houses of gold miners at the foot of a mountain, killing 24 small-scale miners.
Apr. 3, 2011 Tampakan, South Cotabato Four people were killed and two survived when a section of an illegal mine collapsed due to heavy rains.
Apr. 22, 2011 Sitio Panganason, Brgy. Kingking, Pantukan, Compostela Valley At least 14 people were killed in a landslide at an illegal mine site that the MGB had declared a "dangerous" area.
Jan. 29, 2012 Brgy. Palanas, Paracale, Camarines Norte Two miners drowned when the water rose suddenly inside an illegal small-scale mining area.
Aug. 3-10, 2012 Brgy. Bila, Bokod, Benguet A small-scale miner trapped in a tunnel that collapsed was rescued after a week.
Nov. 20, 2012 Brgy. Palanas, Paracale, Camarines Norte Three miners were killed when a small-scale mining pit collapsed in the area.

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