Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte promised on Wednesday (12/07) to resolve an impasse caused by a ministerial order to close more than 20 mines in the world's top source of nickel ore, but told miners to end practices that damaged the environment. (Reuters Photo/Romeo Ranoco)

Philippine President Says Will End Mining Impasse, Warns Miners

BY :ENRICO DELA CRUZ

JULY 13, 2017

Manila. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte promised on Wednesday (12/07) to resolve an impasse caused by a ministerial order to close more than 20 mines in the world's top source of nickel ore, but told miners to end practices that damaged the environment.

The fate of more than half of the country's 41 mines, including several nickel producers, has been uncertain since February when the then Environment Secretary Regina Lopez ordered the closure of 22 mines and the suspension of four others.

The mines have continued to operate while they appeal.

Lopez, a staunch environmentalist, led a 10-month crackdown until her dismissal in May by the powerful Commission on Appointments after her controversial mining orders. She was replaced by Duterte's friend, former soldier Roy Cimatu.

"I have to solve the mining impasse," Duterte said in a speech at the military headquarters, a few days after his new environment minister reversed one of Lopez' orders.

Cimatu lifted a restriction on issuing environmental permits to projects, including mine exploration and development. .

"I will institute the reforms after all my troubles in Marawi City," Duterte added, referring to siege of the southern town by Islamist Militants.

Duterte, who warned last year that the Southeast Asian nation could survive without a mining industry, said abuse of the environment by irresponsible miners must stop.

"I'm warning the rich. I've seen it and it's really destructive," he said. "The devastation of the farmlands ... the fish pond, it's all poisoned. If you destroy the ricefields, how can they survive?"

"This cannot go on," Duterte said. "There are so many injustices here that we have to correct. But just give me time."

Lopez had also revoked 75 mining contracts and banned open-pit mining in what she said was a fight against "greedy miners" threatening public health and nature.

In what was seen as a sign that Lopez' drastic measures could be challenged under Cimatu, a senior mines bureau official last week said her ban on open-pit mining had "no legal basis" and was under review.

Global nickel prices have fallen nearly 20 percent from this year's peak after Lopez's dismissal raised prospects for increased supply from the Philippines. Prices also fell because more mines in Indonesia have been allowed to export ore.

Reuters

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