3 dead, 6 missing in Semirara mining accident

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The Department of Energy on Friday, July 17, confirmed that 3 people are dead after a coal mine collapsed in Semirara Island in Antique.

The open pit coal mine of Semirara Mining Corporation (SMC) collapsed at 3:30 am on Friday, burying 9 workers, the DOE said in a statement.

The DOE said the bodies of the 3 workers were recovered at 6:30 am, while search and rescue operations are ongoing to find the 6 others.

"Our prayers are with the families of the victims and we have directed SMC to focus on search and rescue operations," said DOE officer-in-charge Zenaida Monsada.

In a letter to SMC, Monsada ordered the "immediate suspension of the operations of Coal Operating Contract No. (COC) 5 Semirara, Antique effective immediately."

Monsada has formed an Investigation Committee to look into the incident.

The workers were using heavy machinery to remove sea water from the open pit mine when a wall collapsed and buried the miners, Antique Governor Rhodora Cadiao said in an interview on radio station dzBB.

Heavy rains had also reportedly drenched the area, Cadiao added. 

"Precautionary measures should have been in place," the governor said. "This will undergo (an) investigation. I hope there is no negligence on the part of the contractor."

In a statement, SMC said it has condoled with the victims' families and is providing them "full support."

"It is also coordinating with national and local authorities to keep them updated on the search and rescue efforts and other necessary measures including ensuring the adequate supply of coal for power generation since it has stopped operations in the affected area in compliance with an order from the Department of Energy," SMC said.

It added that it is looking into the cause of the accident in coordination with authorities.

This was the second such accident at the same mine.

In 2013, 5 workers were killed when a section of the mine's wall caved in, also due to heavy rains. The mine operations were suspended, but eventually allowed to resume after SMC implemented safety and other operational measures.  – with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com