Workers walk inside nickel ore mine Zambales Diversified Metals ordered closed by Environment secretary Regina Lopez in Sta Cruz Zambales in northern Philippines on Feb. 7, 2017. (Reuters Photo/Erik De Castro)

Philippine Miner Defies Minister's Shutdown Order


FEBRUARY 18, 2017

Manila. Philippine miner Marcventures Mining and Development, whose nickel mine was one of 23 ordered to close by the environment ministry, said on Friday (17/02) it will take legal action to overturn the ruling and plans to ship out ore next month.

Marcventures' mine in southern Philippines was among those ordered shut by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez for environmental violations in a ruling that has led to an outcry from the industry. Another five of the 41 mines in the world's largest nickel ore supplier were suspended.

A unit of Marcventures Holdings, the company said its mine was ordered to close as it was located in a declared watershed, where mining is prohibited.

But the area was only declared a protected watershed by the government in 2009, while Marcventures secured its mining contract in 1993, the company said in a filing to the Philippine Stock Exchange.

It also contested the agency's finding that it failed to plant three million seedlings, saying efforts were underway and there was no basis for the closure order.

"We will take all the necessary legal actions and exhaust all remedies available to prevent the implementation of the order," it said. "We expect to operate as usual and to start shipments of nickel ore by first week of March 2017."

Mining typically halts in the southern Philippines during the monsoon season that starts around October and ends in the first quarter of the following year.

Lopez has said her decision on Feb. 2 to shut mines operating in watershed zones is non-negotiable, arguing they will affect water supply and quality.

She has also canceled almost a third of contracts for undeveloped mines she said were located in watershed areas.

"The environment is under siege from forces of greed and selfishness and it is the government's duty to regulate it such that the environment benefits our people," Lopez told local radio on Friday.

Mines ordered shut can appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte, who has so far backed her latest actions.

Australian miner OceanaGold, which runs the Philippines' biggest gold mine and was ordered to suspend operations, said earlier this week it has filed an appeal with Duterte's office, putting a stay on the execution of the suspension order.