Philippine mining operations under review
All mine operations in the Philippines are to be completely reviewed, as the new mining minister has vowed to determine whether the industry is hurting the Southeast Asian nation.
Regina Lopez's appointment to head the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has sent shockwaves through the mining sector, which fears a nationwide crackdown
"I'm not against the mining industry but I'm against suffering," Lopez told reporters on her first day in office as part of the administration of Rodrigo Duterte.
"I do want to evaluate if the country is safe from mining," she told a briefing where videos were aired showing environmental harm from mining along with testimonies from farmers and fishermen opposed to the industry.
Lopez said the review would take a month.
Her stance suggests a tough regulatory road ahead for Philippine miners, whose nickel ore producers are the biggest suppliers to China.
A mining industry lawyer said he was worried a ban on new mining development permits in place since 2012 may not be lifted if the minister's review drags on.
"Our concern is that if Secretary Lopez's initiative to review all mining operations will take another four years, and no new mining permits are issued, that will effectively kill the industry," said Ronald Recidoro of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.
President Duterte has warned that he could cancel projects causing environmental harm, though he told business leaders last week that he was not against mining per se.
The country's mining sector, one of the world's largest in the 1970s, has since struggled partly due to environmental rules and policy flip flops, missing much of the mining boom in recent decades and now facing much lower commodity prices.
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