World’s largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in the Mindanao Island claimed 25 dead

Mindanao Island– A landslide buried small miners' bang-houses in a mining area on a southern Philippine island, killing at least 25 people and leaving dozens missing, local disaster and security officials said yesterday.

The incident, the second one in Pantukan town in almost nine months, took place near the Kingking area on the southern island of Mindanao, said to be one of the world's largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits.

Government officials said there had been cracks in the mountains, caused by earlier landslides, and recent rains could have loosened soil. Last month, Typhoon Washi and the flash floods it caused on Mindanao Island killed more than 1,200 people.

The latest landslide hit before dawn, burying people under soil and boulder, said Lieut-Col Leopoldo Galon, an army spokesman. He added 16 people were pulled out from under rubble and taken to a nearby hospital. Still, about 100 people remained unaccounted for, security and local officials said.

"There was no rain but we were awakened by rocks falling in to the roofs of our house," Saul Pinggoy, a small-scale miner, told radio station dzMM. "It was dark but we decided to move to safer grounds. Hours later, we saw tonnes of soil burying dozens of houses," he said, adding that residents were using shovels and their bare hands to look for missing relatives and friends under debris.

The government's mines bureau has listed the copper-gold and gold mining operations in Kingking as one of its priority investment projects.

But the Philippines last year banned small-scale mining in the area due to safety hazards.

Mr Pinggoy said they had been warned by the government to relocate to safer areas, but many people had continued small-scale mining operations, often illegal and unregulated.

Benito Ramos, head of the national disaster agency, said soldiers were sent to help the rescue and recovery operations while army helicopters airlifted injured miners to hospitals.

In April 2011, about 20 people were killed in the same town of Pantukan in rain-induced mudslides. – (hikot)

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