Deadly Semirara rockslide a case of 'bad luck'?

Posted at 02/15/13 9:15 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The rockslide that killed 5 miners at an open-pit mine in Caluya, Antique may have been a case of "bad luck," according to the director of the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences.

In an interview on ANC's Top Story, Dr. Carlo Arcilla said the accident at Semirara Mining Corp.'s mine site would have been very difficult to predict or prevent.

Asked if it could have been predicted, he said "very difficult...  This is more of a rock fall or rockslide more than a landslide."

A section of the west wall of the Panian pit suddenly collapsed before midnight Wednesday, leaving 5 dead. Semirara officials have ruled out that a earthquake or mining activities on the other part of the pit caused the collapse.

Arcilla noted there were no rains that could have caused a landslide in the pit.

"Here there was no rain. Landslides typically happen during rainy season... This was a rockslide... When there are rains in an open pit mine, they are doubly cautious because it (open pit mining) is a controlled landslide," he said. "This one was bad luck."

President Aquino has ordered a probe into the accident. Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla visited Semirara island on Friday, as the Department of Energy began its probe.

Semirara is also conducting a reverse analysis to determine the cause of the pit collapse.

Arcilla said possible causes of the rockslide could be the "hidden faults that have intersected," or "small movements".

"They will do a back analysis on why it collapsed so the slide might expose new faults, study it and how it can be avoided... They can put landslide detectors, which can monitor a potential landslide," he said.

However, the UP NIGS director does not think Semirara was at fault for the accident.

"When I saw the pit (in Semirara), I worked in a mine before, I would not think that would be unsafe... Could this have been prevented? I do not know enough to say anything. But the fact that they have not had any accident in 13 years suggests something," he said.

Semirara island is the Philippines' biggest coal producer.