Image: Philippines’ Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Regina Lopez gestures during a news conference at the DENR headquarters in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
By Manolo Serapio Jr
MANILA (Reuters) – Some Philippine mines need to be shut given the environmental harm they have caused, the minister in charge of sector said on Wednesday, a day before the government announces the results of a months-long review of the country’s mineral producers.
“We’ll be really, really strict,” Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez told radio station DZMM. “There’s some really that have to be closed,” Lopez said, without identifying which mines she meant in the review to be published on Thursday.
“That’s what I see, because it’s too much, it’s extreme” Lopez said on the destruction some mines have caused.
The Southeast Asian nation, the world’s biggest nickel ore supplier, last year suspended operations at a group of 10 of its 41 mines – including gold and copper mines as well as nickel ore producers – for environmental infractions after launching an audit of the sector in July. Manila said in September that 20 more mines were at risk of suspension.
The country’s firebrand leader Rodrigo Duterte has backed Lopez’s mining audit, warning shortly after taking office last June that the Philippines could survive without a mining industry.
“The decisions that we’re making are not political,” the minister said. “I’m not looking at who owns the mines. What’s important is the welfare of those people who live there.”
Some 22 of the 30 mines under review are nickel ore producers, and the threat to disruption of supply from the Philippines has helped fuel a 14 percent rally in global nickel prices since last year.
On Wednesday, three-month nickel on the London Metal Exchange was up 0.5 percent at $10,000 a tonne by 0302 GMT, recovering from a seven-month low reached last week.
(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)