Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc, the Philippines’ second-largest nickel miner, intends appealing a government decision to cancel the environmental permit for its newly acquired Ipilan Nickel Project in southwest Palawan.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the suspension was due to Ipilan Nickel Corp’s (INC) failure to launch its Ipilan project within the five-year period from issuance of the permit.

In describing the announcement as “surprising and unfortunate”, Global Ferronickel said its INC unit had not violated any law or condition under the permit, and criticised the DENR for making a decision “without procedural due process”.

Concerned at the environmental impact of mining, the Philippines, which is the world’s top nickel ore supplier, has halted the operation of 10 mines while another 20 face suspension. This has sparked supply concerns and spurred a rally in nickel prices.

The DENR last Thursday announced that it had cancelled the environmental compliance certificates (ECC) of three nickel mines, including that of INC and United Paragon Mining Corp, for failure to comply with the conditions of the permits.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez also warned that three more nickel producers were at risk of losing their ECCs.

Global Ferronickel told the Philippine Stock Exchange that two DENR agencies - the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Environmental Management Bureau – “could very well attest to the feasibility studies and work plans that INC have so far embarked on” to carry out the Ipilan project.

“If DENR had only observed the barest minimum of administrative notice and hearing, it would have readily appreciated all the time, efforts and resources invested by INC in launching an important project,” it said.

The Ipilan project has resources of more than 50 million wet metric tonnes at 1.23% nickel content, which Global Ferronickel intends to export to China and Australia.

“INC thus intends to vigorously seek a reconsideration of this baseless and unlawful cancellation of ECC in due course,” said Global Ferronickel, which also has a mining operation in Surigao del Norte province.

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