Probe into deadly Semirara landslide begins

by Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 15 2013 04:39 PM | Updated as of Feb 16 2013 02:11 AM

Photo shows part of the land still sliding after a portion of the open pit mine of the Semirara Mining Corp. in Caluya, Antique collapsed on Wednesday.  Photo:

MANILA, Philippines - All mining operations of Semirara Mining Corporation remain suspended after a mountain wall of its Panian pit collapsed, killing 5 workers.

 Search and rescue operations continue as 5 more miners are still missing. Three survived the incident.

Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, who was tasked by President Aquino to probe the incident, was briefed by Semirara officials.

During the briefing, plant officers told Petilla a section of the west wall of the pit suddenly collapsed around 11:55 p.m. on February 13. This caused a landslide that buried several workers, including one of the two workers tasked to monitor the cracks at the top of the wall.

The collapse exposed  wet, sandy materials underneath which could have been the cause of the landslide.

An estimated 600 cubic meters of earth fell and buried 10 workers and several heavy equipment more than half a billion pesos worth.

Semirara officials clarified with Petilla that there is no tunnel that collapsed and trapped the miners. The mine is designed as on open pit area with several layers and levels and when the western wall collapsed, it directly fell on some miners who were in the area at that time.

Semirara also clarified the landslide was not caused by a movement of the earth or mining activities on the other part of the pit.

Petilla visited the accident site where he witnessed the ongoing search and rescue operation.

According to Petilla, the Department of Energy will conduct its own investigation while Semirara will conduct a reverse analysis which will try to trace the possible cause or causes of the landslide.

Semirara president Victor Consunji says it is unlikely that the missing miners are still alive but the company will exert all efforts to recover the bodies.

Semirara will shoulder all funeral or medical expenses of workers who died and are missing, as well as fund the education of the children of the deceased.

Semirara also offered to hire or train older children of the casualties so that they will have work.  While the company loses tens of millions of pesos daily due to the suspension of its mining operations, Consunji says their priority now is to recover the missing bodies.