Miner buried alive at Aussie firm’s mine site
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–An artisanal miner was killed after he was buried while inside a tunnel in the remote village of Didipio in upland Kasibu town, site of a proposed large-scale mining project by a foreign company.
Supt. Domingo Lucas, acting police director, said the victim, one Job Ananayo, a small-scale miner from nearby Wangal village, was buried alive when the tunnel collapsed in the sub-village of Dinauyan, at around 11 a.m. on Sunday.
Lucas said they were still determining whether the tunnel collapse was caused by the miners’ blasting activities or soil erosion due to incessant rains in the past days.
The site is within the primary impact area of the proposed US$102-million mining project of OceanaGold Philippines, Inc., an Australian firm. It is the location of the planned mine tailings dam that the company aims to construct.
The area has, however, become host to a number of small-scale mining tunnels after the landowner yielded his occupational rights to the company and abandoned what used to be a rice land, said Peter Duyapat, president of the Didipio Earthsavers Multi Purpose Association, a people’s organization.
Illegal small-scale mining remained unabated in Didipio, despite previous attempts of a crackdown by a joint task force composed of personnel from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the provincial government’s environment office.
Residents said OceanaGold should also be held responsible for the miner’s death because it had allegedly been tolerating the illegal activities of small-scale miners in that site, access to which it had already bought from locals.
But company officials quickly disowned responsibility for Ananayo’s death, pre-empting speculations that the tunnel collapse could have been caused by the company’s earth-moving activities in the area.
Ramoncito Gozar, OceanaGold’s vice president for communications and external affairs, said the site of the cave-in is “kilometers away” from where their bulldozers were working.
Since December, OceanaGold has been doing earth-moving activities in the area, clearing parcels of land that had been abandoned by villagers who have agreed to sell their land to give way to the mining project.
The company’s pre-development activities, however, has been hampered by villagers who refused to sell to the company their rights over their lands.
Ananayo is the third death recorded since OceanaGold began preparations for the construction of the proposed mine plant.
In January 2006, Ananayo Namullag was killed by a dynamite explosion while inside one of the tunnels there, while Eugene Ansibey died after inhaling toxic fumes from a dynamite blast in June that year.