Philippine mining minister orders closure of more than half of nations mines

February 6, 2017

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said a decision from the Philippine mining minister was “illegal and unfair,” and have asked President Rodrigo Duterte to review Lopez’s action, calling it “without basis, fairness and legality.”

Philippines Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez’s ordered the closure of 23 of the nation’s 41 mines, saying that the mines were operating in watersheds. The mines to be closed account for half of nickel ore output by the world's top supplier of the metal. Another five mines were suspended, Reuters reported.

“She violated due process - which is an inherent part of the rule of law – and did not give proper notice by consistently refusing to release the results of the audit to the affected parties,” the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said in a statement.

A team that reviewed an audit of the mines recommended suspension of operations and payment of fines for environmental violations, rather than closure, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

“Her actions have finally revealed her true bias: to stop all mining in the Philippines,” said Artemio Disini, chairman of the chamber.

“It is now apparent that within her department there is widespread chaos,” he said, citing conflict between Lopez and the review team from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

Disini said on Friday the shutdowns would affect 1.2 million people.

Duterte has supported Lopez's move and the minister said she will not reconsider her decision, adding the Southeast Asian nation is “unfit for mining.”

“These open pits near our rivers and streams will be there forever and a day,” Lopez told Reuters.

“How is that economically lucid? It’s crazy, why are we doing this?”

A staunch environmentalist, Lopez launched an audit of the country’s mines in July, shortly after being sworn in, aiming to punish operations she thinks are harming the environment.

Still largely unexplored, the Philippines' mining sector contributes less than 1 percent to the overall economy.

Only 3 percent of 9 million hectares identified by the state as having high mineral reserves is being mined, according to government data.


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