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Semirara operations remain suspended

/ 12:30 AM August 17, 2015

ILOILO CITY—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has lifted its cease-and-desist order (CDO) against Semirara Mining and Power Corp. (SMPC), less than a month after nine workers died in an accident at the Panian pit on Semirara Island in Antique province.

But mining operations remain suspended pending the separate investigation being conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE).

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In a two-page order dated Aug. 12, the Western Visayas office of the DENR’s Environmentalal Management Bureau (EMB) lifted the CDO it issued on July 21 against SMPC.

In the order issued by EMB Western Visayas Director Jonathan Bulos, the agency granted the motion of SMPC, which said that the mining firm did not violate its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

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In a separate three-page order issued on Aug. 10, Assistant Environment Secretary Juan Miguel Cuna, EMB director, also lifted the suspension of the SMPC’s ECC.

It granted the motion of SMPC which said that the accident did not cause damage or impact to the environment.

The SMPC was also implementing additional measures that would be included in its ECC. These included a comprehensive monitoring program on slope movements and groundwater conditions, and installation of an automatic weather station.

The DOE also ordered the suspension of operations of the SMPC on the 5,500-hectare Semirara Island in Caluya town after excavated soil and part of the northern Panian pit collapsed on July 17.

The recovery operations had been concluded after no other body parts of the workers were found.

Zenaida Monsada, DOE officer in charge, said the department’s investigation committee was still evaluating and validating information that had been gathered.

SMPC officials earlier said that the soil could have loosened due to continuous rain days before the accident.

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The accident is the second in 29 months after the collapse of the western wall of the Panian pit on Feb. 13, 2013. Five workers died and five others remained missing and were presumed dead.

Sen. Loren Legarda has asked the Senate to investigate the enforcement of safety and environmental standards in mining sites following the death of the workers in Semirara.

In a resolution filed on July 29, Legarda said it was “imperative that concerned government agencies determine whether sufficient safety precautions were being implemented” at mining sites.

The resolution was referred to the Senate committees on environment and natural resources; and labor, employment and human resources development on Aug. 5.

Church groups, especially in Antique, have also called for the permanent closure of the mining operations, citing environmental and safety hazards.

SMPC is the country’s biggest supplier of locally produced coal.

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TAGS: Department of Energy, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, environmental compliance certificate, news, Regions, Semirara
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