MANILA (4th UPDATE) - Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said Thursday she was suspending and closing operations of several mines following an industry-wide crackdown on violators of safety standards.
Of the 41 mines audited, only 13 passed while 23 are for closure, 5 for suspension. The decision on one mining operation in Masbate, Filiminera Resources Corporation, was deferred.
"My issue here is not about mining, my issue here is social justice...Why is mining more important than people's lives?" Lopez, a staunch environmentalist, said at a briefing that showed footage of damage from mining to an audience which included priests and residents of mining communities.
Lopez said she was suspending the environment certificates of the following mining operations:
- Berong Nickel Corp.,
- Citinickel Mines and Development Corp.,
- Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp.,
- OceanGold Phils,
- Strong Built Mining Development Corp.
Lopez also ordered four mining operations in Zambales closed, citing their negative effect on watersheds. They are as follows:
- BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc.,
- Eramen Minerals Inc.,
- Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation,
- LNL Archipelago Mining Corp.
Three mining operations in Homonhon Island in Samar were also ordered closed:
- Mt Sinai Mining Exploration and Development Corp.,
- Emir Minerals Corp.,
- Techiron Mineral Resources Inc.
The following mines in Dinagat Islands were ordered closed:
- Aam-Phil Natural Resources Exploration and Development Corporation,
- Krominco Inc.,
- SinoSteel Philippines H.Y. Mining Corporation,
- Oriental Synergy Mining Corporation,
- Wellex Mining Corporation,
- Libijo Mining Corporation, and
- Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corp.
In Surigao del Norte, the closure of these mines was ordered:
- ADNAMA Mining Resources Corporation,
- Claver Mineral Development Corp.,
- Platinum Development Corp.,
- CTP Construction and Mining Corp.,
- Carrascal Nickel Corporation,
- Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation, and
- Hinatuan Mining Corporation.
Operations of Ore Asia Mining and Development Corp. in Bulacan and Benguet Corp. in Benguet are also ordered closed.
Some affected miners said they have yet to receive a formal order from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and an industry group said companies would likely challenge the decision in courts if necessary.
"We have not received any official document pertaining to the suspension of our Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC). In fact, we have DENR audit findings citing our ECC compliance," Berong Nickel Corp. said in a statement. "Nonetheless, we will await official notification from DENR regarding the reported suspension and respond accordingly."
"The operations of Zambales Diversified Metals Corp. has been suspended since July 7, 2016 but we have not received a show cause order or notice of closure from DENR since then," Zambales Diversified Metals Corp. said in a statement.
Lopez said the nickel mines ordered shut account for about 50 percent of the country's annual output, which analysts estimate at about 10 percent of world supply.
The risk of nickel supply disruption from the Philippines should boost global prices of the metal, analysts say, with the initial mine suspensions last year and the threat of more having fueled a rally.
"The Philippine disruption should have a bigger impact on the overall nickel market considering it is the biggest nickel ore producer in the world," said ANZ commodity strategist Daniel Hynes.
"If they are hard and fast orders, then the nickel price should be well supported."
NICKEL PRICE CLIMBS
Three-month nickel on the London Metal Exchange rose to a 2-1/2-week high of $10,375 a ton in limited Asian trading with China still shut for the Lunar New Year break.
The decision comes after a months-long audit of the mining sector that began in July and a further review by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in recent weeks.
"I visited the mines and I made my own judgment based on my own observations," said Lopez, adding that 15 of the mines ordered closed are located in watersheds.
President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday he fully supports Lopez's mining audit.
Lopez has also opposed plans by US network Nickelodeon to build a theme park in Palawan if it will destroy corals in the area.
She also investigated an alleged ash spill in Bataan province that caused people living near a San Miguel Corp. power plant and a Petron Corp. oil refinery to fall ill. -- With reports from Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News; Reuters