Philippines to allow some halted mines to resume operations with conditions

The Philippines will allow nine mines currently halted to resume operations if they correct previous violations of environmental rules, a government official said Friday, in a move that could increase global nickel supply.

The mines, six of which are nickel operations, were permanently shut in early 2017 as part of an environmental crackdown on the sector. Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu, who replaced ousted ecologist Regina Lopez, recently changed the status of the mines from closed to suspended.

The nine mines, six of which are nickel operations, have been shut since early 2017.

In July, Cimatu also removed restrictions on small-scale mining, but kept them for large-scale operations.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly refused to lift a ban on open pit mining, which Lopez implemented during her 10 months in office. She believed the measure would reduce the environmental damage allegedly caused by the industry, helping preserve the “economic potential” of the country.

Mining is a contentious issue in the Southeast Asian nation, the world's second-biggest nickel ore producer after Indonesia, after past examples of environmental breaches, with only 3% of 9 million hectares identified by the state as having high mineral reserves being mined.

There are 48 metallic mines in the country, 30 of which are nickel operations that export most of their output to China, where it is used to produce stainless steel.

Small-scale miners in the Philippines mostly dig for gold, silver and chromite, which is generally used to help make stainless steel. There is no official production data.

With files from Reuters.