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Legarda seeks Senate review of environmental standards in mining sites

August 10, 2015

SENATOR Loren Legarda wants the Senate to review the environmental and occupational standards the government has enforced in the country’s mining sites amid the recent collapse of an open pit coalmine in Semirara, Antique.

“(It is) imperative that concerned government agencies determine whether sufficient safety precautions were being implemented at that time when the miners were working on the site’s water system despite days of rainfall,” said Legarda, chair of Senate committee on environment.

The accident last July in Semirara Island killed at least three workers.

Semirara Mining and Power Corporation is the biggest coal producer in the country and is the only power generator that owns and mines its own fuel source or coal with an installed generating capacity of 600 megawatts (MW) and an additional 1,200 MW in the pipeline.

The firm’s truck and shovel operations can produce eight million metric tons of coal every year with its exports going to nearby Asian countries like China, India, Japan, and Thailand.

Legarda cited Section 63 of Republic Act 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which states that all contractors shall strictly comply with all the mines safety rules and regulations promulgated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The DENR is directed to monitor safe and sanitary upkeep of mining operations to achieve waste-free and efficient mine development.

Section 66 of same law gives the regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the DENR an exclusive jurisdiction over the safety inspection of all installations, surface or underground, in mining operations at reasonable hours, Legarda added.

“There is a necessity for a fair and impartial investigation by concerned government agencies and local government units to ensure to protect the interest of the country’s workers,” Legarda said.

In February 2013, a landslide occurred at the western portion of Semirara’s Panian mine, killing five miners.

Source: Sunstar