The world’s biggest source of nickel is facing a mining shakedown. Philippine environment secretary Gina Lopez has made it her mission to save the country’s watersheds – with the biggest mines as her main target.
MANILA: The Philippines’ environment secretary, Gina Lopez, comes from one of the country’s wealthiest families, with business stakes in media empires, energy and manufacturing. But she had mostly stayed away from the limelight, choosing a life of travelling, spirituality and yoga.
When she returned to the Philippines, she became a passionate advocate for the environment using the charity arms of her family’s media company, ABS-CBN, to fund her projects. That all changed when she was appointed environment secretary under the new Duterte administration and took on some of the country’s biggest businesses, despite little technical education.
Lopez has now threatened to shut down two-thirds of the country’s mining sites and cancel a further 75 mining contracts that were approved by her predecessor – a pipeline of mining investments worth about 1.1 trillion Philippine pesos (US$22 million).
Her announcements shocked the mining community of the fifth-most mineral-rich country in the world for gold, nickel, copper and chromite – the Philippines has US$840 billion worth of untapped mineral wealth, according to an estimate by the country’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
Many of the companies are now fighting back, appealing both to the president and to the courts.
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