Philippines bans open-pit mining as minister toughens crackdown – by Enrico Dela Cruz and Manolo Serapio Jr (Reuters U.S. – April 27, 2017)

MANILA – Philippine Environment Secretary Regina Lopez said on Thursday she will ban open-pit mining in the country, toughening a months-long crackdown on the sector she blames for extensive environmental damage.

The ban comes just days before the outspoken environmentalist-turned-regulator faces a confirmation hearing in Congress that could lead to her removal as minister after a storm of complaints from pro-mining groups.

Lopez, who has already ordered the closure of more than half the country’s operating mines and has previously described open pit mines as “madness”, said it was within her prerogative to ban the practice, which is allowed under Philippines mining law.

“Each open pit is a financial liability for government for life,” she told a media briefing. “It kills the economic potential of the place.” The ban will take effect immediately but will not cover existing mines, she said.

Mining is a contentious issue in the largely underexplored Southeast Asian country after past examples of environmental mismanagement. Lopez in February ordered the permanent closure of 22 of 41 operating mines in the world’s top nickel ore supplier and later canceled dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines to protect water resources.

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