Cebu News

Carmen copper’s open pit operation halted: Four killed, six missing in landslide

Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon - The Freeman
Carmen copper�s open pit operation halted: Four killed, six missing in landslide
A man points at the portion of the mining pit of Carmen Copper Corporation that caved in on December 21, 2020, killing at least four workers.
Aldo Banaynal

CEBU, Philippines — Four died and six others are missing as of Tuesday, December 22, after a portion of a mining pit of Carmen Copper Corporation in Toledo City, Cebu caved in afternoon on Monday, December 21.

“The company continues its efforts to locate six more persons missing,” CCC said in a statement.

It has suspended all activities in the mining operations area to ensure the safety of other employees and contractors.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB)-7 Director Arman Malicse has also served the suspension order to CCC on its open pit operations to pave way for an investigation into the incident.

CCC confirmed the deaths Tuesday morning, hours after rescue efforts began late afternoon on Monday.

Pedro Sepada, Jr., the barangay captain of Biga where the pit is located, said responders retrieved three bodies from the pit around 6 p.m. Monday and retrieved the fourth at 10:30 Tuesday morning.

In a separate statement Monday night, CCCC said the incident was "traceable" to successive days of rain in November “and aggravated by Typhoon Vicky which hit part of the Visayas including Toledo City last Friday December 18, 2020.”

Neil Sanchez, head of the Cebu Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, disagreed. He said the landslide could not be connected to tropical depression Vicky "because eventually, when the incident happened, which was yesterday, gawas naman si Vicky sa PAR (Philippine Area of Responsibility).”

CCC did not disclose the names of the victims for the privacy of their families.

Roseller Layan, Toledo City public information officer, said the city government will provide financial assistance to the family of the victims.

Rescue operation

CCC said it is working with the Toledo City government, including the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and Local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (LDRRMO) in locating the six missing workers.

"As of this time, we are in close coordination and communication with the affected immediate families and will continue to extend the needed support and assistance. We humbly ask the general public to exercise caution and responsibility in distributing information out of respect to the affected families," CCC’s statement reads.

Police personnel have also been deployed in Barangay Biga to ensure that residents will not go near “ground zero”. The city also coordinated with the Philippine Coast Guard as rescuers asked for divers and life boats to access a part of the pit, which has water.

Layan said the search and rescue operation is very challenging considering that there is still minor landslide in the area.

"Very delicate gyud kay sige paman siya og guho. That is our very struggle because the ground is very unstable and we don't want to gamble the lives of our rescuers," he said.

He assured that the city government is on top of the situation.

"I can assure you that Mayor Joy (Perales) is really updated with the incident so that’s why pagkagabii dayon adto, iya dayon gi-instruct ang atong local council para mag-convene para, at least, matabangan namo kon asa nato makita nga makatabang mi. That's why makita ninyo nga naka-posisyon na tanan ang assests sa city government," Layan said.

(I can assure you that Mayor Joy is really updated with the incident so that’s why, on the night after the incident, she asked the city council to convene to discuss what the city can do to help. This is why all our assets are already in place.)


Meanwhile, Sepada disclosed that they have raised to MGB concerns on CCC’s mining activity but to no avail.

"Dugay na ko ni-complain ani sa MGB pa unya wala pa ni-aksyon nga klaro gud. Dugay na ni kay tungod lage aning ilang pag-mina diri nga walay klarong benching unya wala mosubay gyud sa standard operation sa mina ba, unya nanggrabe na ang pagpangliki sa among barangay. Wala na kaabot sa 300 meters ang distance sa residential area sa amoang barangay,” Sepada said Tuesday.

(I have already complained to MGB but no action was taken. The company has not established proper benching at the pit and they have not been following mining standards, and more cracks have been observed in our barangay. The distance to the residential area has gone below 300 meters.)

He said the last time the barangay sent a letter to MGB, as well as to the mayor and governor’s office, was in November this year but no action was taken just yet.

Labor aspect

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)-7 has also sent inspectors to CCC as part of its own investigation.

For its part, the Partido Manggagawa-Cebu said it will open a parallel investigation into the incident, considering that two of the four fatalities, as well as all six missing persons, are members of the union. They are members of the Ilaw-Buklod Manggagawa - United Miners of Carmen Copper - Workers Solidarity Network, a group affiliated with PM.

PM-Cebu said it will check if CCC committed negligence, which led to the incident.

“Dapat anticipated na unta na nila kung magsigi og uwan, naay possibility nga mag-landslide. Why were the safety officers including their third party geology engineering, who manages the slopes, still allowed the workers to work in the area? Wala diay na nila nakita in advance,” said its spokesman, Dennis Derige.

(They should have already anticipated the possibility of a landslide when it rains. Why were the safety officers including their third party geology engineering, who manages the slopes, still allowed the workers to work in the area? Did they not see this in advance?)

CCC has 276 hectares of active mining area out of 1,676 hectares of total operating area.

Currently, Carmen Pit is their only mine operations site.

Carmen Pit is located in Barangay Biga, one of four host barangays, where around 200 union members reside.

CCC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corporation, which serves as the country's principal producer of copper concentrate.

It ships copper concentrate mainly to smelters in China and Japan, as well as to the Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corporation in Leyte Province. —  Mae Fhel K. Gom-os, Le Phyllis F. Antojado /JMO (FREEMAN)

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