Coal mine worker falls in pit, dies (Philippines)

A REPAIRMAN of a coal mine in Barangay Balaas, Argao town died after he slipped from a coal transport equipment and fell into a 45-meter pit last Monday night.

In Compostela town, a cement factory worker also died last Wednesday after a concrete mixer he was cleaning suddenly got switched on, crushing him to death.

In the accident in Alta Tierra Mining and Development Corp. in Argao, Leocadio Sandoval, 37, suffered fatal head injuries due to the impact. The hole is about 60 meters deep.

Alta Tierra Mining and Development Corp. is co-owned by Cebu Provincial Board Member Wilfredo Caminero.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has started investigating the accident, and has ordered the temporary closure of the site pending the result of the investigation.

SPO1 Arnold Abiner of Argao Police Station told Sun.Star Cebu that the accident happened past 7 p.m., when Sandoval went down into the pit with his two colleagues to repair the cart used in transporting coal.

His body was pulled out an hour later.

The elevator is open and riding it is risky, the police officer said.

The police ruled out foul play after interrogating Sandoval’s co-workers Jimmy Dwerme, 30, and Cerilo Mariposque, 28.

Sandoval wasn’t drunk because drinking is not allowed at the mine, the police officer said.

Police learned of Sandoval’s death only last Wednesday night, after the media called the police station to confirm the accident.

Asked why they did not immediately report Sandoval’s death to the police, Caminero said it was an accident and not a crime, so they informed the DOE instead.

“If there is an agency that deals with accidents in mines, it would be the DOE,” Caminero said.

In a phone interview yesterday, Gerard Abesares, investigator of DOE’s Energy Development and Utilization Division, said they considered the accident an error of judgment on the part of Sandoval, who was trying to test the coal transport equipment.

Abesares confirmed that the small-scale mining is operated by Caminero and has a permit under the name of Gemma Albarracin.

Abesares, who visited the mining site last Tuesday, told Sun.Star Cebu that Sandoval was a member of the repair and maintenance crew that was called to fix a wooden path where loads of coal pass through.

When the repair was completed, they decided to test it.

His fellow miners were already on board the equipment, which was running. When Sandoval tried to get on the equipment, he slid and fell directly to the pit, landing some 45 meters from where the equipment was hanging.

His fellow miners immediately carried him out but a medical rescue team declared that he died instantly because his head was badly fractured.

“Based on our interviews with his fellow miners, the victims appeared experienced in his job, but he was negligent and did not follow the standard of operations,” Abesares said.

There are two kinds of mining operations in Cebu—the coal operating contract (COC) and the small scale mining operations.

Albarracin’s mining firm, which is reportedly financed by Caminero, is classified as small-scale mining.

A DOE team inspected Albarracin’s mining site and learned that it complied with the mining standards of operations, Abesares said.

He added that the firm has a safety inspector and has safety reminders within the mining site, and the miners have safety boots and head gear.

But because of the accident, about 300 workers of Alta Tierra Mining and Development Corp. were told not to report for work.

Caminero, for his part, said there is no basis for the temporary closure of the mine, especially when all their 300 workers are equipped with safety gear.

“It was an error on the part of the worker. It’s really up to the workers, if they are not careful, then they would fall,” said Caminero.

He said the DOE has confirmed that Sandoval was negligent.

The board member said this was not the first time an accident happened at the mining site.

Years ago, a foreman and another worker died on separate incidents. Both were Caminero’s nephews.

Abesares said Caminero has assured the DOE that he would give weekly financial support to the Sandoval family and a scholarship for his son who is in second year high school.

Sandoval’s wife Clara, 33, said she now worries for the future of their seven children.

In an interview aired over ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol Central Visayas, she described her husband as a hard worker, who had worked in the coal mine for seven years. His wake is in their house in Barangay Santicon, Badian.

Caminero also assured the Sandoval family of burial aid, on top of the Social Security System (SSS) benefits that the family will receive.

“This is a big loss for us. He was a trusted employee. He worked very hard and would not take his work for granted, especially if there was a problem at the mine,” Caminero said.

In Compostela, Jonathan Rondina’s bones were crushed and his head was fractured when his body got stuck in the mixer.

The accident happened past 7 p.m. inside John Joseph Block and Merchandising owned by Cora Gom-os.

PO3 Ronald Luna of the Compostela Police Station said they are not discounting the possibility of foul play since the machine was shut down by the operator.

When the tragedy happened, the victim’s co-worker, Radel Baladjay, was downstairs while Rondina, 31, was extracting cement from the filter.

The police officer said Baladjay, a close friend of Rondino, was consistent with his statements when police questioned him.

It was the first time an accident involving the machine happened in the cement factory. The machine was acquired last March.

Luna said the owner will shoulder the expenses for the victim’s burial.

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