The Philippines' Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez said she wants to prolong a ban on new mines in the nation and that she will review all environmental permits previously granted to the minerals industry.
Miners criticized the proposals saying she seemed determined to put the "industry to sleep," Reuters reported.
An environmental audit has already halted a quarter of the Philippines’ 41 mines and puts 20 more at risk of being shuttered. The Philippines is the world's top nickel ore supplier and the environmental audit that has spurred a rally in global nickel prices.
"I want to put a moratorium on any new mining," Lopez told a media briefing.
Lopez, a committed environmentalist who has described openpit mining as "madness," said she wanted to continue a ban put in place by a previous government in 2012, dashing industry hopes that some restrictions may be lifted following the audit that finished in August.
"I don't want to fight the mining companies, I can work with them as long as they don't silt the river, destroy the rice fields."
Lopez also said her agency would review around 800 environmental compliance certificates (ECC) including those granted to mines. That would come on top of the industry audit that led to the current mine suspensions, Reuters reported.
Ronald Recidoro, a lawyer representing the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said Lopez "cannot unilaterally choose not to issue new permits" because she is required to process new applications under Philippine laws.
“We are still a government of laws, not of just one woman,” Recidoro said. “It seems that the signal she's sending to everybody (is) she's out to slowly put this industry to sleep.”
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned miners in August to strictly follow tighter environmental rules or shut down, saying the country could survive without a mining industry.