MANILA – The Philippines’ new environment minister said it was possible to strike a balance between mining and protecting natural resources, but added that he needed time to assess mine closures ordered by his dismissed predecessor.
President Rodrigo Duterte this week named Roy Cimatu as replacement for staunch environmentalist Regina Lopez, a move welcomed by miners in the world’s top nickel ore producer but opposed by green groups who said he does not have a track record in conservation.
“There are countries where mining contributes a lot to the economy and environmentalists are not screaming,” Cimatu told Reuters in a phone interview on Tuesday. “I think it can be done … (balancing) environment (protection) and responsible mining.”
Cimatu’s next steps will be closely watched by nickel markets for clues on whether the government will boost or constrict supply of the metal, shipped to destinations such as China to churn out stainless steel.
A former military man who briefly headed the Philippine armed forces in 2002, Cimatu said he has yet to take a position on decisions made by Lopez including her orders to shut more than half the country’s mines and cancel contracts for undeveloped mines to protect water resources.
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