Catholic bishops are calling on the Philippine government to rethink its mining policy after the July 17 collapse at the country's largest coal mine left at least six people dead and three others missing. "The government must rethink its policy of granting licenses for mining operations," said Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the bishops' public affairs office. "In mining, tragedies are likely to happen. It's unfortunate that the workers who earn a measly sum from such dangerous work are always the victims," he said. Mining "destroys our natural resources, contributes little to our country's income, and endangers the lives of workers," he added. A section of the Panian open-pit mine belonging to Semirara Mining and Power Corp, the country's biggest coal producer, collapsed early July 17 following continuous rain in the central Philippines province of Antique. In February 2013, another section of the same mine collapsed, killing 10 workers. "I hate to say this, but it's only the mining companies that are benefitting enormously from [mining]. It's negative effects obviously outweigh the positives," Secillano said. The priest's statement came after Pope Francis urged the global mining sector on July 17 to implement "a radical paradigm change" to make improvements in how the industry impacts the planet and the poor. "The entire mining sector is undoubtedly required to effect a radical paradigm change to improve the situation in many countries," the pontiff said. Gov. Rhodora Cadiao of Antique recommended that the mine be shut down. "I am recommending and appealing to the [owner of the mine] to close the pit.... Two incidents [show] that this place is very dangerous to work [in]," the governor said. The Department of Energy has ordered a suspension of operations at the mine pending an investigation into the incident. The Semirara mine produces 92 percent of all coal produced in the Philippines. The Semirara Mining and Power Corp said it is "coordinating with national and local authorities" in investigating the cause of the accident.
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