On order of President Benigno S. Aquino III, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje directed the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to intensify environment and safety measures in mining operations throughout the country to minimize, if not to prevent, mining accidents.

“I have directed the Mines Bureau and all its regional offices to make sure that mining companies religiously observe safety measures in their mining operations to prevent loss of lives and property, as well minimize adverse impacts on environment,” Paje said.

Paje’s directive came on the heels of landslides following heavy rains that occurred recently in a mountain village in Tampakan town in South Cotabato, where three small-scale miners were reportedly trapped in the mine tunnels that collapsed as a result of the landslides.

The victims were allegedly involved in sluice mining or banlas. Sluice mining is a method of mining that involves the pouring of large amounts of water to wash off the mountain’s surface and expose the rocks that contain the gold ore to be extracted, according to the report.

“We will continue to experience the effect of La Nina so that even with the onset of summer, heavy rains are expected in some parts of the country. With all the earthquakes occurring lately, we have to ensure that companies give priority to safety measures in their operations,” Paje said.

According to Paje, the DENR has long set strict safety rules and regulations on large-scale mining operation embodied in DENR Administrative Order No. 2000-98. “This order specifically provides for the mine safety and health standards in mining operations. It also provides for the creation of a multi-partite monitoring team composed of representatives from the MGB, concerned local government units, the operating mining company, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and other concerned agencies and entities, tasked to regularly conduct inspection to check on environment and safety measures in the mines site.

Mining projects are likewise mandated to employ at least one full time safety engineer and safety inspector to oversee the implementation of safety measures in the mines site, Paje added.