3 miners’ bodies recovered in rescue attempt of 16 trapped illegal miners
Hopes are fading for any survivors during the fifth day of rescue operations for 16 miners trapped inside a former Benguet Mining operation in the municipality of Itogon in the Philippines.Rescuers found three bodies in a shaft about 270 feet from the tunnel opening, said Fred Jacinto of the Gold Fields Saranay Community Miners Association.The tunnel and its branches were flooded on Tuesday when a landside caused by floods during typhoon Nina diverted creek water to the depths of the closed mine.The missing miners failed to come out when the tunnels were flooded with rain water. The Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will investigate how the miners, who weren’t employees of Benguet Mining, managed to access the site.The illegal miners managed to enter the site by digging their own access point since Benguet closed its ingress and egress points 700 feet below ground level due to conditions stemming from the bad weather. The 13 miners were believed to have gone inside Monday night and were trapped at 4 a.m. Tuesday when heavy rains from Nina triggered a landslide.The gold mine site was closed two years ago, Philippines Environmental Secretary Jose L. Atienza, Jr., said, ‘We’re still looking at the incident, but based on our initial investigation, these miners were illegally mining in the field."Reynaldo P. Mendoza, Benguet’s senior vice president, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that operations had been suspended since 1993 at Level 700 of the Antomok mine in which the miners were trapped. Grills had been placed on the tunnels to close off the area. Security regularly patrols the mine to guard it against illegal miners.Mendoza said tunnels in the mine’s lower levels are unused drainage tunnels where water naturally flows through during rain. The ventilation system in the tunnels is no longer operating. "Without that ventilation, even if it is not raining, people may suffocate in there since there are natural gas emissions within the tunnels, such as those coming from decaying wood."Benguet and Philex Mining have been actively participating in the rescue efforts for the trapped miners.