3 dead in Tampakan landslide

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/02 April) – Three of four  miners reported to have been trapped in a landslide Saturday morning within the mines development site of  Sagittarius Mines, Inc. in Tampakan town, South Cotabato, are dead, Rex Magbanua, chair of neighboring Barangay Danlag, said.

Inset Map from Wikipedia“We went there earlier and the situation is dangerous for rescuers because rocks and soil were still falling,” he said in a radio interview at past 5 p.m.

He identified the fatalities as Ramram Payuri and Remy Malaya The name of the third victim has yet to be verified but Magbanua said he was told the man was from Tupi in South Cotabato.

He said they saw another miner half-buried but still alive.

Earlier, Tampakan Vice Mayor Relly Leysa said rescuers rushed to Sitio Bong Anten in Barangay Pulabato, site of the landslide that struck after two days of continuous heavy rains.

“As per hand-held radio communication at 1:30 p.m., four people were trapped while another escaped,” he told MindaNews.

He said the victims were allegedly involved in illegal “banlas” or sluice mining, a method which employs the pouring of large amounts of water on a mountain’s surface to extract the rocks containing the gold ore.

Banlas mining has reportedly become rampant in the mountains of Tampakan in the past two years.

Leysa said the miners trapped in the landslide were reported to be doing shaft sinking or digging downward.

He said the illegal mining area is within the mines development site of Sagittarius Mines, which is planning to extract huge copper and gold deposits in the area

Critics had earlier criticized Sagittarius Mines for failing to keep illegal mining activities away from its tenement.

Public relations officials of Sagittarius Mines could not be reached for comments on Saturday’s incident.

Sagittarius Mines is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as minority equity partner. Philippine conglomerate San Miguel Corp. owns a stake at Indophil.

Heavy rains have sporadically pounded South Cotabato province in the last few days.

Only last Wednesday, at least two tunnels in Barangay Kematu in T’boli town collapsed due to heavy downpour, burying alive three persons and injuring two others.

Barangay Kematu is a minahang bayan (people’s mining) site where small-scale mining operations have been active for over a decade now.

Last year, two brothers were killed inside the tunnel when they reportedly ran out of oxygen.

The minahang bayan site is within the mines development site of Canadian-backed Tribal Mining Corp, and has been a subject of dispute between the company and small-scale mining operators.

Gold and silver deposits are said to abound in the village. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)