The Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has allowed eight suspended nickel ore miners to ship out stockpiles of mined ore, according to Reuters. The shipments will temporarily boost supply from the world’s leading exporter of the raw metal after a government crackdown on the mining industry.
More than half of all mines in the Philippines, including many nickel miners, have been ordered to close in a campaign led by DENR secretary Regina Lopez who has cited environmental violations.
Quoting an official source, Reuters said allowing the mines in question to sell their stocked nickel ore was aimed at limiting the potential build-up of silt in nearby waters rather than the government toning down its campaign.
“It’s an issue of environmental hazard. If we don’t allow it then it will just be a hazard so it needs to be removed,” the official said. Another official with the environment ministry confirmed to Reuters that the mines can ship out the ore.
The official said the volume of nickel ore stocks from the mines may well exceed 1 million tonnes, or about a month’s worth of consumption by China.
In a March 6 memorandum, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters, Regina Lopez allowed the eight suspended nickel miners to remove their stockpiles from all mining areas.
The order also required the mines to put 2 million pesos (US$39,730) per hectare of disturbed land into a trust fund “to further mitigate the adverse impacts of the mining operations to the environment and to the affected communities”.
Environment Undersecretary Philip Camara confirmed the memorandum was valid, a ministry spokeswoman said.
The eight miners, including Hinatuan Mining Corp, a unit of leading nickel ore producer Nickel Asia Corp, were among 10 suspended for environmental breaches during a July-August audit of the nation’s 41 mines.
In February Regina Lopez ordered 23 mines closed for good, including six of the eight suspended nickel producers. Many of these mines have appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte and continue to operate while waiting for his final ruling.
Two of the suspended mines are owned by construction-to-power firm DMCI Holdings Inc, which was planning to restart the mines this month while it awaits the outcome of an appeal, in a test of rules around the crackdown.