LEGAZPI CITY — Barely a month after the occurrence of a deadly explosion in an illegal coal mining operation in Batan ssland in Rapu-Rapu, Governor Joey Sarte Salceda urged the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to conduct an investigation into the reported unabated illegal coal mining operation in the area.
The massive illegal coal mining operations in the island are reportedly rampant and operating under the nose of local officials despite the province’s opposition to all types of mining in the island municipality.
Related story, here: Explosion in Albay’s Batan island mining camp kills 2 persons
Last month, two miners — Antonio Grajeda and Jerson Dela Cruz — were killed and two others — Moises Boyon and Christian Santillan — were injured in an explosion while mining underground.
All working at the Sammajo Mining Corp., the victims were inside a 125-meter-long underground tunnel, some 34 meters below the surface, when the explosion took place.
Report said coal mining operations are protected by some authorities even as the mayor of Rapu-Rapu town allegedly has an existing coal mining operation.
“The provincial government is concerned about those reports and will not take them dismissively simply because they are supposed to operate under the convenient camouflage of a Department of Energy approval. So I ask the Sangguniang Panlalawigan committee on natural resources to conduct an inquiry for possible violation of our Sangguniang ordinance against mining,” he said.
The governor said the coal mining operations in Batan Island have allegedly the green light of the DOE.
“In short, it is legal as it has the DOE’s consent but it has no provincial consent and will not have provincial consent. We have an anti-mining ordinance. Our powers are only local but we have consistently adhered to our avowed goals,” he said.
A “camote”-style of illegal coal mining operation is thriving in the Batan Island, reportedly untouched by local officials and clashing directly with the reputation of the province as a pioneer in climate-change adaptation advocacy.
Last year, former provincial board member Arnold Embestro, chairman of the board’s environment and natural resources committee, revealed that there are 20 illegal coal mining operations in Batan Island which have caused water contamination and deforestation that might exacerbate the risks of potential landslides.
Rapu-Rapu, Albay, is not only a host to multibillion-peso gold reserves but also to vast natural coal deposits.
Coal is used as a substitute to petroleum in local and international industries.
It currently has a strong market demand due to the successive spikes in the prices of crude oil in the international market.
The strong demand for coal in the local market resulted in the proliferation of illegal coal mining activities in the town of Rapu-Rapu, prompting the provincial board to take action and urge the DOE to put an office in Bicol to look into the operations here.