Miners ordered to vacate area as early as 2008

SITIO DIAT UNO, Napanapan, Pantukan (MindaNews/06 January) – As early as 2008, the local government here had ordered small-scale miners in the gold rush sites to vacate areas already identified as high-risk but they refused to leave, citing economic reasons, Arnulfo Lantaya, spokesperson of the local disaster council, said.

Lantaya also said that after the April 22 landslide in Sitio Panganason, Barangay Kingking last year, Mayor Celso Sarenas issued a stoppage order on all small-scale mining operations.

But the miners refused to leave the area citing economic reasons, Lantaya said. “Ila man gyud gina sulti na mao man lang ila panginabuhian, mao na mubalik gyapon sila sa minahan” (They insist this is their only source of livelihood

As of  Thursday evening, at least 25 persons were reported killed but only 18 cadavers had been retrieved from the landslide hit  in the gold-rush site in Sitio Diat 1, Barangay Napnapan.

The landslide struck at 3 a.m., around the same time as the April 22, 2011 landslide that killed 14.

A still undetermined number remain missing.


Percival Sablas,23, told Mindanews that he was awakened  by the rumblings at around 3a.m.. The landslide missed his house by a few inches.

“Nakamata ko sa pagdalusdos na sa mga bato ug yuta. Murag ga hangin kusog ba. Naa ra gyud sa kilid sa akong balay” (I was awakened by the sound or rocks and the earth rolling down very near my house), said Sablas who has been working in the minesite for four months now.

He said he heard some of his neighbors cry for help.

Antonio Dayami, 47, lost his sons Christopher, 17, and  Jayson,18. But 16-year old Raymart survived.

“Dugay na kami dire ga trabaho sa tunnel. Ako daan 10 years na ko dire ga mina-mina. Murag naanad na mi aning landslide dire” We have been here for a long time. I have been working in this small-scale mining operations for the last 10 years. We’re used to landslides here), he told MindaNews while waiting for his son Jayson to be transported to the town proper.

The bodies of his sons were brought down much earlier, he said.

The last time he was with his sons was just on Wednesday, adding that he just went down to the town proper on the afternoon of the same day. “Uban kami tanan nag New Year tapos misaka lang kami dire adtong January 3.”

Cocoy Banuelo, sitio leader of Diat Uno, told  Mindanews there could be a hundred still trapped in the landslide.

Banuelo said residents had started noticing falling rocks and soil particles at at around 2 a.m. An hour later, the side of the mountain collapsed.

As of 3:30p.m., rescuers were digging with shovels and water to soften the soil. But everyone scampered for higher grounds at around 3:50p.m. after hearing warning shots from the ridge above the landslide site.

Residents told MindaNews it was a warning shot from the guards of the mining company to alert them of another possible landslide.

“Warning shot lang to para ma-alert lang ang mga tao kay naa pa man dako na liki sa taas ba” (These were warning shots to alert the people because there is still a major fissure in the area).

The sitio leader added  at least 50  makeshift houses were destroyed.

By 4 p.m., warning shots were fired again. This time, the rescuers stopped digging and agreed to  resume early Friday morning.

A kilometer away

Thursday’s landslide is about 15 kilometers from the town proper and around a kilometer away, not six or seven kilometers away as previously reported, from the April 22 landslide site.

Small-scale miners in the gold rush sites have been used to living in bunkhouses near tunnels and ball mills.  But after the April 22 landslide, the local government implemented a Memorandum of Understanding it signed with miners,  declaring the mining site a “no-habitation” zone to avoid a repeat of what happened.

Liza Mazo, chief of the Office of Civil Defense in Region 11,  said officials in identified high risk areas in the region have been alerted since 2008 following the study conducted by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

Mazo said the barangays of Kingking and Napnapan, both gold-rush sites,  were identified as among the high-risk areas in Pantukan.

These barangays are among 500 high-risk areas listed in the region.

After the landslide on April last year, Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo. Uy declared a no habitation policy in gold-rush sites that have been identified landslide-prone areas. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)