Philippines to shut half of mines, mostly nickel, in environmental clampdown – by Enrico Dela Cruz and Manolo Serapio Jr (Reuters U.K. – February 2, 2017)

MANILA – The Philippines ordered the closure on Thursday of 23 mines, mainly nickel producers that account for about half of output in the world’s top nickel ore supplier, in a government campaign to fight environmental degradation by the industry.

Manila also suspended operations at another five mines, including the country’s top gold mine operated by Australia’s Oceanagold Corp, as Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez vowed to put the public’s welfare above mining revenues.

“My issue here is not about mining, my issue here is social justice,” Lopez, a staunch environmentalist, said at a briefing that showed footage of damage from mining to an audience including priests and residents of mining communities.

“Why is mining more important than people’s lives?” News of the mine closures sent global nickel prices higher and followed the earlier suspension of some operations amid an audit of the country’s 41 mines that began shortly after outspoken President Rodrigo Duterte took office last June.

Some affected miners said they have yet to receive a formal order from Lopez’s agency, while an industry group said companies would likely challenge the decision in courts if necessary.

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