DOE deploys team to probe mudslide incident at Semirara coal mine

Published October 3, 2019, 3:22 PM

by Patrick Garcia

By Myrna Velasco

The Department of Energy (DOE) has sent out a team to investigate another mudslide tragedy at the Semirara mining facility in Antique province that is owned by the Consunji group.

In this September 2016 photo, heavy equipment are seen working at one of the coal pits of Semirara Mining and Power Corp. (SMPC), the country’s largest coal producer in Caluya town, Antique province. (Tara Yap/MANILA BULLETIN/ FILE PHOTO)
In this September 2016 photo, heavy equipment are seen working at one of the coal pits of Semirara Mining and Power Corp. (SMPC), the country’s largest coal producer in Caluya town, Antique province. (Tara Yap/MANILA BULLETIN/ FILE PHOTO)

The department indicated that based on initial information, the mudslide catastrophe reportedly resulted to at least one employee of Semirara Mining and Power Corporation (SMPC) missing.

“The DOE, through its Energy Resource Development Bureau, immediately deployed a team of geologists and mining engineers to conduct an on-site assessment,” the agency said.

It added that “based on aerial and ground inspections of the DOE’s technical team, the presence of mudflow was confirmed at the location of the incident.”

This is not the first time that such mishap happened at the Semirara mines — the worst happened in July 2015 when part of the coal mine collapsed and that led to the deaths of some of its workers.

Semirara Mining’s operations had been ordered suspended by the energy department that time – but had reopened after several months following institution of remedial measures by the company, because SMPC also needed to honor its contractual commitments to the power plants and industries it has been supplying coal to.

On this current mudslide incident, SMPC itself has reported to the DOE that the mining firm was in its “regular mining operations” – wherein it deployed heavy machinery on a drainage canal at the mining site’s Molave pit in the south wall, when suddenly “an irregularity was detected at 1:00am.”

The company further reported to the department that “the mudslide occurred five minutes thereafter,” or at around 1:05am on Thursday (October 3).

In a statement to the media, Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi stressed: “We are thoroughly investigating the matter to determine the cause of the incident, and ensure that all of the safety standards and protocols were safely upheld.”

As of this writing, the energy department has not issued any additional status report as to its investigation of the incident.

Cusi, who is in Russia for the state visit of President Duterte offered “heartfelt prayers to all who were affected by the incident,” adding that “we are also continuing to pray for the safety of the personnel involved in the search and rescue operations.”

The department, he emphasized, will continue to work with the Consunji-owned firm so they could “carefully look into the incident.”

There had been no pronouncement from the DOE if there is any plan to suspend the mine’s operations following this incident. (MMV)

 
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