A team that reviewed an audit of Philippine mines recommended suspension of operations and payment of fines for environmental violations, rather than the closure of 23 mines ordered by the minister overseeing the process, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez on Thursday ordered the mines shut, saying many were operating in watersheds. The mines to be closed account for half of nickel ore output by the world’s top supplier of the metal. Another five mines were suspended.
The decision has angered the country’s mining industry, with miners saying the shutdowns will affect 1.2 million people and some vowing to overturn the ruling.
However, the review team that advised on the process believed some of the violations, which included insufficient rehabilitation of mined areas, absence of tree-cutting permits and construction of alternate haul roads, were rectifiable, and did not warrant permanent closure, one of the people said.
“She’s the boss, she has all the discretion,” the person said. “The only question is what was her basis in her decision?”
Lopez, a long-time environmentalist who took over the department that oversees the mining sector last June when tough-talking President Rodrigo Duterte came to power, has declined to release the recommendations of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) review team.
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