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Philippines to extend ban on new mines, review current permits

A miner hauls unprocessed rock from the seabed onto the beach in Leyte. (Image: Luc Forsyth)

The Philippines is considering extending a ban on new mines and will review all environmental permits previously granted to companies operating in the country, the mining minister said Friday.

Miners had hoped some of the restrictions imposed in 2012 would have been lifted following the audit that finished in August. Instead, they are getting worse.

The move is part of Manila’s increasing efforts to clamp down on damage caused by the mining industry in the Southeast Asian nation, which is the world’s top nickel ore supplier.

Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez, a well-known environmentalist, noted she was not against the sector. “I don’t want to fight the mining companies, I can work with them as long as they don’t silt the river, destroy the rice fields,” she said according to Reuters.

The country’s natural resources ministry started an audit of all mining operations in July and has already shut down more than 40 mines, nine of them nickel producers, which has sent the metal prices skyrocketing.

Nickel hit a one-year high of $11,030 a tonne in August. It has since retreated, trading at $10,465 on Friday.

Lopez’s stance on mining is backed by President Rodrigo Duterte, sworn in as the Philippines president at the end of June. Since he took power, Duterte has made it clear that he wants his country to pursue stricter mining standards. If doing so implies shutting down all operations, Duterte has said he’s willing to do so.