There are strong indications that the Philippines Government will end a ban on open pit mining by the end of the year. This follows this week’s recommendation by a government panel to reverse the ban imposed by former environment secretary Regina Lopez.

The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) said in a statement on Tuesday that a majority of the panel voted to recommend that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) “lift the ban on open pit mining provided that mining laws, rules and regulations are strictly enforced.”

Removing the ban would allow the development of some major mining projects, including the $5.9 billion Tampakan Copper-Gold Project in South Cotabato province, Mindanao, and the resumption of development of Philex Mining’s Silangan Copper-Gold Project, also in Mindanao.

According to Reuters, Regina Lopez’s replacement Roy Cimatu said he would follow the recommendation and present it at a Cabinet meeting in the first week of November. “We will strengthen the regulatory environment surrounding the implementation of open-pit mining,” he told reporters.

Miners have praised the recommendation with Chamber of Mines executive director Ronald Recidoro telling Reuters, “Open-pit mining is an accepted method worldwide to extract shallow mineral deposits and a lot of our minerals are exactly that. The challenge is for it to be done safely and the environment is protected during and after the mining is accomplished.”

In a statement, the Department of Finance said that during the meeting, the MICC also recommended that the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau must ‘take a close look and take appropriate action’ with regards the expansion of the 24 mining areas covered by mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs).

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