DENR chief orders probe on mining accident in Itogon, Benguet

April 1, 2010 10:08 pm 

MANILA, April 1 — Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Horacio Ramos ordered on Thursday field officials of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR)-DENR to dig deeper into the reported flooding of an underground tunnel in a mining area in Itogon, Benguet last March 29.

Reports reaching the DENR Central Office in Quezon City said the floods caused the walls of the underground tunnel to collapse, killing at least three of six small-scale miners inside the tunnel at the time.

At the same time, Ramos asked local residents to refrain from entering the underground tunnel being operated by Benguet Corp. at Luneta in Antamok, Itogon to prevent a repeat of the incident.

Ramos said that based on field reports, the six small-scale miners entered the mining area at around 6 p.m. of March 29 despite a cease-and-desist order issued by Benguet Corp. to the Luneta Miners Association (LMA) sometime in February this year.

When the group failed to return home, their families and friends went looking for them at the mining site and found that the water coming from a nearby river had entered the underground tunnel, causing its back and walls to collapse, trapping the miners inside.

Ramos said only three of the miners survived the accident and were rescued at around 9 a.m. on March 30

The bodies of the three fatalities, on the other hand, were recovered at around 2:30 p.m. of the same day. They were identified as Jojo Ramirez, 24, of Mabini, Pangasinan; Edgar Sucalo, 36, of Pozorrubio, Pangasinan; and Rolly Gilles, 40, from Southern Leyte.

The survivors were identified as Marlon Patras of Tuba, Benguet; Mardy Bagni of Tadian, Mountain Province; and Robert Bati of Mabini, Pangasinan.

Ramos noted that the LMA failed to report the incident to the Cordillera offices of the DENR and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, not even to the Benguet Corp. which operates the mining area.

The DENR chief also said that based on MGB records, the activities at the site were not covered by any small-scale mining permit. (PNA) scs/JCA

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