The Department of Energy (DOE) will determine if the collapse of the open pit coal mine of Semirara Mining Corp. in Caluya, Antique, that left at least nine workers dead was an accident or was triggered by neglect.
A team of DOE investigators had been deployed to the mine site to probe the incident. DOE officer-in-charge Zenaida Monsada over the weekend said the investigation may take two weeks.
The probe, she added, will establish if the incident at the mining pit’s north wall was an accident or caused by neglect.
The team will also determine if Semirara Mining complied with safety requirements after its west wall also collapsed in February 2013, killing five workers.
Monsada said investigators will check the conditions at the mine site although no violations were reported at the Panian pit prior to the disaster that happened on Friday last week.
The DOE had suspended mining operations to allow unimpeded investigations.
Semirara, a unit of DMCI Holdings Inc., is the largest coal mining company in the country.
But the president of the 200,000-strong Federation of Free Workers (FFW) said the mining company has no criminal liability in the death of its workers.
Sonny Matula said the Philippines has no law that covers the criminal liability of the owners or the management of a company if their workers died while doing their job.
“If there is a comprehensive law in the country about the occupational safety and health standards, then the death of nine workers in the Semirara Mining and Power Corporation’s operation in Antique could have been prevented. We would not be mourning our fellow workers if there is a law that ensures the safety and health of the workers,” he told The Manila Times in a phone interview on Sunday.
Matula said the violation of Semirara will only cover occupational safety and health standards (OSHS) and other labor policies and standards, which are all “administrative in nature.”
Penalties for such administrative infractions are “so miniscule,” he noted.
Matule said no complaint was filed against Semirara when the five workers were killed in 2013.
The mining firm’s operations were only suspended for four weeks.
The FFW and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) supported the DOE’s move stopping work at the mine site, citing the need for a comprehensive study and evaluation of Semirara’s operations.
TUCP spokesman Alan Tanjusay, however, said closing the mine site will adversely affect the lives of workers who are solely reliant on mining.
Matula urged Congress to pass a measure on occupational safety and health standards to protect workers.