Gov’t pinpoints tragedy for sealing mine tunnels
ITOGON, Benguet — The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) facilitated the immediate sealing of the numerous mine tunnels of Benguet Corporation (BC) in Barangay Luneta here following the death of three pocket miners, who, along with three others, allegedly illegally entered the abandoned mine tunnels over the past two weeks.
The mine tunnels were reportedly sealed off through the concreting of the portals aside from the placement of iron grills and it was done in coordination with the defunct mining company which has mining rights over most parts of this mineral-rich town.
The immediate closure of the mine portals came after Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Joracion C. Ramos ordered the MGB-CAR to investigate the circumstances leading to the death of the small-scale miners who were trapped inside the abandoned BC mine tunnel.
Earlier, elements of the Itogon municipal police station identified the fatalities as Jojo Ramirez, 24, a native of Mabini, Pangasinan; Edgar Sucalo, 36, a pocket miner who hails from Pozorrubio, Pangasinan; and Rolly Gilles, 40, who is a native of Limasawa, Southern Leyte but married to a woman from Hingyon, Ifugao.
Based on initial investigation, the three individuals who were trapped inside the tunnel, after its retaining wall was washed away by rushing waters of a nearby river, were among 15 pocket miners who entered the so-called Latongan portal of the BC located at an elevated portion beside the Antamok River channel last March 29.
Initially, a team from the MGB-CAR discovered that the small-scale miners reportedly entered the mine tunnel purposely to retrieve pieces of mine equipment being used for small-scale mining operations, the major source of livelihood of thousands of people living in the different barangays (villages).
Last February, the mining company issued a cease and desist order to the Luneta Miners Association from entering the tunnel following a report from MGB-CAR that the area has been previously identified as high-risk based on a risk assessment on all areas in Antamok.