DAVAO CITY— Engineers of regional office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said there could be lapses in the implementation of occupational safety standards that caused the mines tunnel tragedy in Mt. Diwata, Monkayo, Compostela Valley.
Engineer Bruce Santillan, senior science research specialist of the MGB said the flash flood that killed three miners and a rescuer on Saturday, February 27 “is caused by the persistent rain since February 15 and the railings that separated the Australia tunnel and Las Vegas tunnel that collected the debris preventing water from coming out”.
“There are two causes of flash flood, first is the heavy rain that started on February 15 till February 27. Second are the railings that were put to separate the ore of Australia and ore of the Las Vegas portal. Commercially, it was put there not for the safety issue but now it had been used as a filter with the debris that stops the draining of water.,” Santillan said during the Kapehan sa NCCC media forum held today, March 4.
Engineer Fedeliz Echavez said that a portion of the tunnel collapsed.
“There is a portion of the Australia tunnel which collapsed, there were impounded water and debris material causing the flash flood,” Engr. Echavez said.
The MGB revealed that there is a possibility that the Australia tunnel violated the occupational safety standards.
“Initially, we see that the Australia tunnel also have lapses,” said MGB Engineer Joel N. Catulong.
Catulong said that Australia tunnel operation is legal but “unlike large scale tunnels, Australia tunnel does not have complete equipment and safety”.
“Unlike big scale operations who are complete in equipment and safety engineers who have plans and system on regularly monitoring the working area, small scale mining area focus more on the production. You can also see that they have safety issues,” said Catulong.
MGB lacks needed pump
Santillan said that there is still an ongoing de-watering operation in the immersed area, with rescuers still needing one large submersible pump to remove the water and to find the bodies of three missing miners. He said the present pump is too small to pump water out of the level 568 area in the Australia tunnel in Mt. Diwata.
“We need a 13 horsepower 220-volt 3 phase submersible pump,” Santillan said.
Santillan appealed to the public to lend them the equipment necessary to pump water out of the flooded portion of the Australian tunnel.
The MGB also announced that they will conduct a re-assessment in the area after the investigation to identify whether there are similar cases in the area that might lead to another accident.
“After the investigation, there will be a re-assessment of the working areas of the tunnels to identify whether there are similar cases in their old workings,” said Echavez.
Catulong added that because of the lack of staff, they will only focus on the re-assessment of the isolated area.
The MGB will come out with the official statement next week.