PANTUKAN, Philippines (Reuters) - Philippine rescuers, using shovels and bare hands, searched Saturday for survivors of a landslide that swept through a shanty town in a mining area on the southern island of Mindanao.
Officials said 15 miners had been rescued under layers of mud that covered rows of shanties near a creek between two mountain slopes in the mining province of Compostela Valley.
But 21 people still remained missing from the landslide which struck in the early hours of Friday, army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lyndon Paniza said.
“We have enough soldiers on the ground but we need heavy equipment to speed up rescue efforts. We have to move out thick layers of mud that is starting to harden.”
Three people have died in the landslide which hit KIngking village. The local mayor put the death toll at 27 but later revised the figure, saying he had been misinformed.
Shanty towns have mushroomed around Kingking after a gold rush in the area nearly 20 years ago. Many of the mining operations are illegal and unregulated, and there are frequent accidents.
U.S-based, Canadian-listed mining firm St Augustine Gold & Copper Ltd and the Philippines’ Nationwide Development Corp said the landslide happened in a remote area some distance away from where they were conducting environmental and engineering studies.
On its website, St Augustine said the Kingking prospect is one of the largest underdeveloped copper-gold deposits in the world.
Provincial governor Arturo Uy said the administration was considering suspension of all forms of mining around Kingking following the latest disaster.
“I’m trying to recommend a suspension for a definite time, let’s say 30 days. Tomorrow, I’ll wait for a few more details then, we might announce the suspension, then re-evaluate and re-assess the situation,” he said in a television interview.
Two years ago, a landslide in another part of the village killed more than 20 people, including some children. Residents had been ordered to relocate due to the instability of the land and risk of landslides.
The Philippines sits on an estimated $1 trillion untapped mineral deposits, but has only targeted to attract $1 billion in mining investment this year.
Reporting by Erick de Castro and Pedro Uchi; Writing by Manny Mogato; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani