Philippines move to cut mining to save ecology angers industry

Manila, Feb 16 (IANS) Mining companies in the Philippines accused the government on Thursday of wanting to kill the industry after it unveiled plans to cancel 75 mining contracts and ordered the closure of 23 mines, a media report said.

The step would be taken across the country as the mines were having a negative impact on the environment, Efe news reported.

On Tuesday, the country’s Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said the government will annul 75 of the 311 mining contracts in the Philippines. Just a week earlier, it announced plans to shut down 23 of the 41 active mines in the country for polluting the water table and damaging local communities.

This has sparked a fierce duel between the government and mining barons, with the latter claiming that the government plan to halt mining put projects worth $22 billion at risk.

Lopez, a defender of environmental issues, is “out to kill the industry. We do not see a future for us under her,” hit out Ronald Recidoro, Vice President of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines responsible for legal and policy affairs.

He also accused the minister of risking billions of dollars of public money in fighting possible lawsuits that mining companies may file if the administration goes ahead with the plan.

Lopez’ proposal to close 23 mines — including 19 of nickel and one of gold — has so far been backed by President Rodrigo Duterte, although he is yet to formally ratify her decision.

On Sunday, in reference to alleged damages by mining activities on his native Mindanao island, Duterte said it will be impossible to change nature back to how it used to be, and so he was going to close all of them (mines).

The archipelago is the world’s largest nickel exporter, with 27 mines of the metal, which could be drastically reduced to eight if the government goes ahead with the plan.