Weather triggered Semirara mine collapse — Energy panel

An investigation panel formed by the Energy Department has completed its report on the collapse of a coal mine in Antique province, saying weather was a critical factor that triggered the accident.

The panel, however, required Semirara Mining and Power Corp., operator of the mine, to comply with several safety requirements before the government would lift the suspension of the company’s coal operating contract. The accident claimed the lives of nine miners on July 17.

“The investigation committee has already submitted and I wrote Semirara informing them of the findings [of the investigating panel],” Energy officer-in-charge Zenaida Monsada told reporters.

Monsada said weather was a critical factor that triggered the accident in Semirara, as heavy rains caused the backfill of the north edge of the Semirara mine to collapse.

Monsada said the investigating committee had recommended that Semirara undertake certain safety compliance such as hiring a technical consultant and submission of plan of operations for up to three years.

Monsada said Semirara had expressed its intention to comply with the safety recommendation but a team from the department would still visit the site to confirm the company’s compliance.

“If we find sufficient compliance, the team will have to go back and check. If they want the suspension lifted, they have have to immediately comply with the requirements. There is no time frame, they just have to comply,” she said.

The energy official said while it would be for the interest of the service contractors to operate project at the soonest time, they “should follow the regulations.”

“We cannot sacrifice safety,” she said.

Monsada earlier ordered the immediate suspension of the operation of Semirara’s coal operating contract no. 5 following the accident.

The Environmental Management Bureau of the Environment Department had lifted the suspension order on Semirara.’s  environmental compliance certificate for its East Panian expansion project.

Semirara received on Aug.10  an order from the Environment Department, lifting the suspension of the ECC “on the basis of its findings that there is no adverse effect or damage to the environment in relation to the landslide that occurred at the north edge of the Panian mine and same is due to fortuitous event.”

The order said Semirara has agreed to implement comprehensive monitoring program to monitor slope movements and ground water conditions to ensure that slope stability is always with the prescribed standard.

Semirara also agreed to submit a detailed assessment on the cause of slope failure, probable mechanism of slope failure and performance of monitoring.

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