MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday he agreed with banning open-pit mining in the world’s top nickel ore exporter given the environmental damage it causes but would give mining firms time to find other ways to extract minerals.
Duterte said in a televised speech that the extraction process was a “dangerous environmental activity” and that he had asked Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu “to look into the eventual closure of open-pit mining”.
“I agree with (former Environment Secretary) Gina Lopez that that has to stop some time. But I’ll give the mining companies enough elbow room … for eventual change in the modality of getting what’s inside the bowels of the earth,” Duterte said.
Open-pit mining is allowed by the country’s mining law but Lopez banned it during her 10 months in office, saying it killed the economic potential of places where it was done.
The ban was one of several measures Lopez imposed during a crackdown on the sector that included closing or suspending 26 of the country’s 41 mines. Lopez was replaced by Cimatu in May after she failed to be confirmed in her post by lawmakers.