In welcoming the rejection by the Philippines’ Commission on Appointments (CA) of Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez’s confirmation as a government minister, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) says it is the beginning of a new chapter for the country’s mining industry.

COMP was among those that strongly opposed the appointment of the committed environmentalist and has thanked the CA for its decision. “This is not the end, but rather the beginning of a new chapter,” COMP said in a statement, adding that it would seek reversal of her measures.

“Those have no legal foundation,” COMP spokesman Ronald Recidoro said. “There were no proper consultations held. And more importantly it’s really out to kill the mining industry.”

The rejection by the Philippines Congress follows mounting complaints from pro-mining groups about the crackdown on mining in the country carried out by Regina Lopez since she assumed the post in June last year, citing environmental damage and risk.

She began auditing all mining operations shortly after her appointment, accusing miners of violating environmental laws. She ordered the closure of 22 of 41 operating mines in February and then cancelled dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines in the fifth-most-mineralised country in the world. The rejection comes just days after she toughened her stance on mining by banning future open-pit operations.

Reuters quoted Regina Lopez as stating, “It is the constitutional right of every Filipino to a clean and healthy environment. It was a dream and a promise we had for the country and it is unfortunate that business interests have in fact run the day.”

Despite support from environmental activists, religious groups and social justice organisations, as well as backing from President Rodrigo Duterte, her rejection is considered to be final as it is very rare for cabinet appointments in the Philippines to be denied confirmation.

Following the announcement this week, President Duterte’s office said he would respect the decision.

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