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ITOGON, Benguet – Three large-scale mining companies and nearby communities were recently locked down by the municipal government following the alleged outbreak in Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in their mine sites over the past several days.
Mayor Victorio T. Palangdan urged the management of the Philex Mining Corporation, Benguet Corporation and Itogon-Suyoc Resources, Inc. (ISRI) to conduct the required testing of their mine workers to prevent the further spread of the deadly virus in the communities outside the mine sites.
Further, 14 other individuals tested positive for COVID during the aggressive mass testing conducted in Philex through the sponsorship of the Basis Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) where 620 people underwent the swab test.
Initially, Philex Mining Corporation reported that it ceased operations over the weekend following the sudden surge in the COVID cases among its mine workers that also caused the company to impose the mandatory testing of its workers.
Philex legal and administrative division head lawyer Eduardo M. Aratas disclosed that results of the ongoing contact tracing and expanded testing showed that there are a total of 216 individuals that tested positive for the virus where 175 are mine workers, 9 are workers of contractors and 36 are residents of the villages within the mine site.
He added that 9 of the confirmed cases were able to recover while a huge number of the cases who are undergoing isolation in the established quarantine facilities are expected to recover in the coming days.
Aratas claimed that since Monday, the company started to gradually resume its operations as only those workers who tested negative will be allowed to report for work while efforts are being done to normalize the company’s operations in the coming days.
Earlier, a team from the regional office of the health department visited the company’s quarantine facilities and appreciated the company’s initiatives to put up the same with strict adherence to prevailing basic health and safety protocols.
The Philex official revealed that the company is ready to put up additional quarantine and isolation facilities within feasible areas in the mine site if the confirmed COVID cases will continue to increase in the coming days because of the ongoing aggressive contact tracing of the close contacts of the earlier patients and the expanded testing for all mine workers, employees of contractors among others in the area.
On the other hand, Benguet Corporation (BC) administration department manager lawyer Froilan Roger Lawilao stated that the company was also compelled to place some areas on total lockdown following the positive test results of some 110 workers for the deadly virus.
He stipulated that the infected workers are now undergoing isolation in their designated bunkhouses awaiting the results of the ongoing contact tracing in the mine site.
Lawilao said that the situation in the mine site is under control because the outbreak occurred in one of the bunkhouses located in a remote area that allowed the concerned health authorities and company officials to be able to effectively manage the same.
In a related development, Apex Mining Company, Inc. reported to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) that it temporarily suspended its operations at its Sangilo mine here following positive COVID-19 test results from more than 80 employees.
Apex said that Sangilo mine owned by subsidiary, ISRI, was included in the localized lockdown recently issued by the municipal government because of the sudden increase in the number of COVID cases in the municipality where the mine sites had been identified as one of the areas with increasing cases over the past several days.
While management is still awaiting the swab test results of the tests conducted by the rural health unit, it has doubled up on its mitigation measures, disinfecting all the areas where the cases were identified, among others to prevent the further spread of the virus in the mining community.
The company is also seeking assistance from the local government and the health department to conduct the required mass testing among its workers in the mine site.
Apex claimed that mining operations will resume upon completion of ongoing contact tracing and testing and that only those with negative results would be allowed to return home. By HENT