Three people died and six others are believed to have also been killed when part of a coal mine collapsed in Caluya, Antique, on Friday.
The open-pit mine is on an island around four hours by boat from the main island of Antique.
Nine workers were using heavy machinery to remove sea water from the open-pit mine when a wall collapsed and buried the miners, Antique Governor Rhodora Cadiao said.
A total of 13 workers were working at the site when the landslide occurred. Four workers, however, managed to run to safety.
Heavy rains had also reportedly drenched the area, Cadiao said.
“Nine people were buried and presumed dead. We recovered three bodies and we’re looking for six more,” the governor told radio station dzBB.
She said the victims were working the night shift. Cadiao claimed that the mine operates 24 hours throughout the week. Workers don’t enjoy a time off, she said.
Semirara Mining and Power Corp., which owns the mine, said it was investigating the incident in coordination with the government.
The coal mine supplies 90 percent of coal used in coal-fired power plants in the country.
Semirara Mining is a subsidiary of DMCI Holdings Inc and is the country’s largest coal miner.
“Management has condoled with the families of the victims and is giving them full support,” it said in a statement.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has ordered the suspension of mining operations, it said in an announcement.
“The Department of Energy has ordered the immediate suspension of the operations of Coal Operating Contract No. 5 Semirara, Antique, effective immediately,” the official statement read.
Acting Energy Secretary Zenaida Monsada ordered the formation of an investigating panel to be headed by Assistant Secretary Raymond Acol.
Five miners were killed in a similar incident at the mine in February 2013.
“Precautionary measures should have been in place,” the governor said. “This will undergo investigation. I hope there is no negligence on the part of the contractor.”
According to Cadiao, the mine operator had promised the provincial government in 2013 that the incident will not happen again.
“There are deaths and somebody has to answer for that. Noong 2013, binayaran lang nila yung pamilya ng mga biktima. Huwag na sana nilang daanin sa pera-pera ngayon [In 2013, they just paid the victims’ families. I hope that this time they would not just dangle money before the victms’ families],” she also told dzBB.
Cadiao said the recovered victims were immediately brought to the hospital where they were declared dead.
“I requested the contractors to stop operations until they recovered the six [missing workers],” she added.
Isidro Consunji, CEO of Semirara Mining & Power Corp., said only nine workers were at the site. He confirmed that the missing were buried alive by the landslide.
“Three bodies have been recovered as of this time and digging continues to look for six others,” Consunji said. “That’s as far as I know. Some of our mining equipment have also been damaged. We don’t have the complete details yet.”
WITH PNA AND AFP