n 2016, the mining industry was greeted with the appointment of Regina Paz Lopez as the country’s environment secretary, a staunch environment advocate who had President Duterte as one of her earnest backers.
According to the President, appointing Lopez as environment secretary was a no-brainer. He recalled a passionate woman entering his office in Davao who flew all the way from Manila to show him pictures of environmental destruction caused by mining. He needed no convincing that this woman was right for the job.
It was no surprise then that Lopez’s 11-month tenure, which carried over until the early part of 2017, became the precedent of a tumultuous year for the mining industry.
After her appointment, Lopez immediately brought shockwaves both to the local and global mining communities after she ordered the closure of 28 operating mines and the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSA)—a quarter of the industry’s contracts—claiming these illegally encroached on watersheds, leaked waste into rivers and destroyed trees.
She also directed a ban on open-pit mining, which led to the closure of more than half of the country’s operating mines that used this method. This unforgiving stance affected the biggest mining companies in the country, including Nickel Asia Corp., the largest nickel producer in the country and the biggest supplier of nickel to China.
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