Philippine miners say closures to hit 1.2 million people, vow to fight back – by Enrico Dela Cruz and Manolo Serapio Jr (Reuters U.S. – February 3, 2017)

MANILA – The planned closure of 23 Philippine mines, mostly nickel producers, and the suspension of five others will affect about 1.2 million people, miners said, as some vowed to take legal action to contest the decision.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez ordered the closures and suspensions on Thursday as she announced the results of a months-long audit on the country’s 41 mines aimed at halting mining operations judged to have harmed the environment.

Artemio Disini, chairman of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, told a briefing that the first option for affected miners would be to appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte “before going to the courts”.

“We have a total 1.2 million people affected including family members,” Disini said. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said on Friday he would meet shortly with other cabinet members to check if they have “emergency employment programs” that could absorb workers who will lose jobs.

“My next concern is the impact on local government finances because (miners) pay a lot of taxes to local governments,” Dominguez told reporters. Enrique Fernandez, president of suspended nickel miner Eramen Minerals Inc, which has now been ordered to close, said staff levels had already fallen to 150 from more than 1,000 previously and more workers could go by the end of the month.

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