MANILA - Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said Thursday more mines could be suspended in a crackdown on unsafe practices that has halted operations of 10 miners, as she dismissed a claim by mineral producers the review was a "demolition campaign."
"Yes," Lopez told Reuters, when asked if there was a risk of more mines being suspended. The secretary launched a review of all mines on July 8 and has suspended 10 so far, eight of them nickel ore producers.
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The move, and the risk of more being shuttered in the world's top nickel ore supplier, has lifted global nickel prices to a one-year high above $11,000 a ton.
Philippine miners believe the crackdown is a "demolition campaign" against them and are seeking to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte, Benjamin Philip Romualdez, president of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, said earlier on Wednesday.
"What I have seen with the mines that we have suspended is that the quality of life of the present and future generations have in fact been jeopardized," Lopez said, citing silt buildup in rivers and destroyed farmlands around mining sites.
"And any succeeding mines that we will suspend will only be for that reason," she said.
Lopez reiterated she was not against the mining industry and was following the rule of law in conducting the review expected to be completed this month.
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"When mines are suspended because rivers are silted, farmlands are gone and fish ponds have disappeared, that's not a demolition campaign," she said.
"That's a statement of fact backed by science, by lab tests."
Lopez, an environmentalist who thinks open-pit mining is "madness," spoke after a Senate hearing tackling the 2017 budget of the environment agency.
Her stance on mining is backed by Duterte who has previously warned miners to strictly follow tighter environmental rules or shut down, saying the nation could survive without a mining industry.