MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ environment minister said he was hopeful that a ban on open-pit mining would be lifted before the end of the year after a government panel recommended its removal on Tuesday. Lifting the ban would allow the development of some big-ticket mining projects including the $5.9 billion Tampakan copper and gold mine.
Open-pit mining is allowed under the mining laws of the Southeast Asian country, the world’s top nickel ore exporter. However, the former environment minister Regina Lopez banned it during her 10 months in office, saying the environmental degradation ruined the economic potential of places where it was done.
A staunch environmentalist, Lopez stepped down in May after she failed to win congressional confirmation. Roy Cimatu, a former soldier, replaced her and was confirmed in his post by lawmakers earlier this month.
The Mining Industry Coordinating Council said in a statement that a majority of the panel voted to recommend that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources “lift the ban on open pit mining provided that mining laws, rules and regulations are strictly enforced.”
Cimatu, who co-chaired the council with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, said he will follow the recommendation and present it at a Cabinet meeting in the first week of November.