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Mayor’s order: Leave areas near Toledo mine

400 families living within 500-meter radius of pit hit by landslide to be evacuated as ground cracks widen

ACCIDENT A section of a mining pit of Carmen Copper Corp. at Barangay Biga in Toledo City, Cebu province, collapsed early this week following heavy rain in the area. —PHOTO COURTESY OF DICEMAY PADILLA

CEBU CITY — At least 400 households, consisting of 2,000 people living near the mine site where a landslide occurred on Monday, were told to leave their homes as ground cracks in the area have widened.

John Roseller Layan, public information officer of the Toledo City government, said Mayor Marjorie Perales found it prudent to transfer families in communities within the 500-meter radius of the Toledo copper mines to prevent another disaster.

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“The mayor sees the need to do it (forced evacuation) but as to the procedures, we still have to convene the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council,” he said in a text message to the Inquirer.

Council members were scheduled to meet on Thursday afternoon to identify relocation sites, as well as set the date when these families could move out.

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A landslide on Monday afternoon hit a section of a mining pit of Carmen Copper Corp. (CCC), killing at least four workers. Search-and-rescue operations for six missing workers were suspended on Wednesday after a company geologist discovered that several cracks near the landslide site had widened from 0.3 m (1 foot) to 6.09 m (20 ft).

Marching order

While rescuers believed there was a slim chance of finding survivors, Layan said Perales wanted to continue with the mission.

“The mayor’s marching order was to be aggressive with the operation,” he said.

Armando Malicse, officer in charge of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Central Visayas, said experts who visited CCC’s Carmen Pit suspected that the missing workers might have been underwater.

He said the water in the pit was filled with silt, which made it difficult for rescuers to find the workers. Malicse said the four fatalities had died either from drowning or after being hit by debris or rocks.

“We are praying for the best, but we doubt that there will still be survivors from the landslide,” said Malicse after inspecting the site with other MGB officials.

CCC suspended its operation following the tragedy. It said “it is doing all the necessary action to assess and address the overall situation.”

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“We will continue to inform the concerned agencies as well as the general public of further developments,” the company said in a statement.

Heavy rain

On Monday night, CCC blamed “incessant rains” in the past months and heavy rain accompanying Tropical Depression “Vicky” (international name: Krovanh) on Dec. 18 for the tragedy.

Malicse said a suspension order served by the MGB to CCC would stay “until such time that the hazards will be removed.”

“At a glance, it seemed like it was really an accident. There should have been no people near the site because they knew that the portion of the pit would fall any time and they were just waiting for [an accident to happen],” he said. INQ

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TAGS: Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp., Carmen Copper Corp., Cebu, Landslide, Mining, Toledo
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