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HomeFront PageBreaking NewsMining worker says mine blast occurred an hour before Surigao village landslide

Mining worker says mine blast occurred an hour before Surigao village landslide

By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur– A mining company worker whose house was affected by the landslide in the mining village of Siana, Mainit town in Surigao del Norte has posted a picture of a blasting notice by Greenstone Resources Corp. (GRC) an hour before the disaster took place on Saturday, May 11, which buried at least 27 homes.

Christian Odtojan, a motorpool worker at GRC, posted a picture that he took at the road crossing between Barangay Dayano in Mainit town and Barangay Cawilan in Tubod town hours before the mudslide occurred.

The photo of the bulletin board bearing the GRC logo showed the blast was scheduled on May 11, 4 p.m. at Stage 8 South at an elevation of “RL 75.”

Odtojan said the bulletin board is erected  just about 600 meters from their village, and he took the picture after he felt a tremor while at home in the morning of that day, sensing danger after his older brother told him that the concrete road at Purok Riverside started to crack.

“Before the landslide/mudslide happened dunay blasting nga gihimo ang GRC TVIRD company, nga maoy naka pa paspas paglihok sa maong yuta (the GRC TVIRD company conducted a blasting that could have hastily triggered the landslide/mudslide),” Odtojan wrote on his Facebook post Monday evening.

Asked what if the company fires him for posting the blast notice online, Odtojan said he decided to stood up to refute the company’s claim that  a Magnitude 4.0 tremor at 4 p.m., an hour before the mudslide, could have caused the slide.

The Odtojan concrete home he and his siblings helped build for many years was one of the houses buried by the mudslide. Three days before the slide, he was welding the iron grills of its façade.

Motubag ko sa post (of GRC) kay dili tinoud ni  (I will answer the  post (of GRC) since that is not true,” Odtojan said in an online interview with this reporter.

He said when the blasting happened at 4 pm on May 11, “all residents in Barangay Siana felt the shaking of the ground, as they usually experienced in the past.”

This reporter called up two GRC officials for reactions to Odtojan’s post, but they were not answering.

But Larry Heradez, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) – Caraga regional director, said the blastings at the GRC mining tenement is a regular activity.

He refuted Odtojan’s claims that the shockwaves of the blast could be felt in Barangay Siana since it is 1.5  kilometers away from the gold mining company’s open-pit area.

He called the blasting in the mining area as “controlled activity.”

Heradez noted that the height of the backfilled mine waste of the collapsed Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) 3 had a lateral area of  150 meters and 30-40 meters height, but he could not explain if such mound of mud waste is still safe from a possible slide.

In a statement, the Surigao del Norte provincial government said that at least 239 families or 822 individuals have been displaced by the landslide in Barangay Siana.

The collapse of TSF 3 was attributed to saturation induced by heavy rains in the preceding months, exacerbated by seismic activity in the region. As of now, a team from the MGB is conducting an investigation at GRC’s mine site to further understand the incident, it added.

Heradez said he will leave the outcome of what really happened to the MGB central office probe team sent by Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga.

The DENR said the probe will cover factors leading to the incident, its impact, the tailings facility’s integrity, and the mine’s safety systems and procedures.

“Infrastructure failures highlight the urgent need for monitoring, regulation, and oversight in the mining industry to de-risk operations and prevent incidents in the future,” Loyzaga said in a Philippine Daily Inquirer report.

“This is urgently needed, especially because of the seismicity of our country and the impacts of climate change,” she added.

The gold mining company had blamed the collapse of the embankment of TSF 3 within its mining site on recent earthquakes, including the Magnitude 4 temblor that was felt an hour before the landslide.

GRC said that cracks had been earlier found on Siana’s barangay road adjacent to the TSF 3 embankment, and that they immediately ordered the evacuation of residents.

Both the local government and GRC executives evacuated affected residents to the municipal gyms in the towns of Tubod and Mainit following the mudslide.

An hour after the mudslide, Surigao del Norte Gov. Lyndon Barbers rushed to Barangay Siana and was told by local officials that there was no recorded casualty, which was attributed to the timely evacuation of the residents.

However, local officials could not yet provide the exact number of houses damaged by the mudslide and those affected by the cascading tailings from GRC’s damaged facility.

GRC communications director Kaycee Crisostomo said the company immediately helped evacuate residents after receiving reports of cracks on the barangay road and a portion of the TSF 3.

In a press statement, Crisostomo explained that the TSF 3 structure was constructed on top of an older tailings storage facility built by mining company Suricon in the 1990s and extended forward by an Australian company called Red 5, the former operator that built the TSF 3.

Caption:

The photo of Christian Odtojan on the blasting warning by Greenstone Rescources Corp. which tells passers by that the time was 4:00 pm on May 11, an hour before the mudslide.

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