Semirara Island sinking due to mining?

Posted at Jul 20 2015 11:22 AM | Updated as of Jul 21 2015 12:44 AM

MANILA - The governor of Antique expressed fears over the reported expansion of Semirara Mining and Power Corp. in the province after another accident affected one of its mining pits last week.

In an interview with DZMM on Monday, Antique Governor Rhodora Cadiao said that reports have it that the DMCI-run company is planning an expansion program that involves reclamation of the waters around the Semirara Island.

Cadiao said that, as far as she knows, the expansion of the coal mining operations, which involves an estimated 10,000-hectare area, is already 5 to 7 kilometers off the shore.

"East Panian expansion program... It is almost 10,000 hectares of area sa may dagat, na naglalagay na sila ng mga lupa doon. Ire-reclaim nila [ang bahagi ng dagat], at sa loob noon, sa gitna noon, magbubutas uli sila at maglalagay uli sila ng bagong pit," she said.

While the expansion could be legal, the governor said that safety issues are the government's main concern especially after last week's accident that killed six people.

"If they cannot assure safety sa minahan na wala na sa ilalim ng dagat, ano pa kaya ngayon na mag-e-explore na sila sa ilalim ng dagat?" she said.

Cadiao also fears that the whole of Semirara Island -- an island as small as Boracay -- could slowly sink because of the mining operations that has been going on in there for around 20 years.

She said two mining pits in Semirara have already shown signs of exhaustion, following two deadly accidents.

The collapse of Panian pit last week, Cadiao said, might be due to the fact that the miners are already digging too deep -- reportedly around 2 kilometers below sea level now.

"Sa bowels of the earth na sila kumukuha ngayon, ngayon mag-e-expland pa sila," she said.

Cadiao said that they have already talked to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources about the matter since the agency is the one giving out permits.

She explained that the province of Antique only owns the site and they only get "a portion of the national wealth" that come from mining.

Despite the money the province can get from mining operations -- especially after the mining pit accidents -- Cadiao is starting to ask if it is truly worth it.

"It is worth the progress and the money that we're going to get?" she said, pointing out that lives of miners are at stake in these operations.

The governor earlier said that they have already recommended the closure of the Panian pit after the accident last week.