Philippines Open-Pit Mining Ban Recommended for Removal

A government panel voted in favour of removing the ban on Tuesday.

open-pit

The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) has voted in favour of lifting a ban on open-pit mining in the Philippines; the world’s top nickel ore exporting country. The country’s Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said he is hopeful that the ban would be lifted by the end of the year

MICC also agreed that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau should “take a closer look” at potentially expanding 24 areas covered by Mineral Production Sharing Agreements. Cimatu said he will present the council’s recommendation at a Cabinet meeting in November. Lifting the ban would allow mining projects such as Sagittarius’ $5.9 billion proposed copper and gold mine in South Cotabato province to proceed. Open-pit mining was banned in Cotabato in 2010, which prompted operator Glencore (LSE:GLEN) to leave the project in 2015. A removal of the ban could also prompt Philex Mining (OTCMKTS:PXMFF) to resume development on its $1.2 billion Silangan copper and gold mine.

“We will strengthen the regulatory environment surrounding the implementation of open-pit mining,” Cimatu told reporters. Former Environment Secretary Regina Lopez criticized the council’s recommendation calling it “disgusting” and expressed concern about environmental damage.

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“All those open-pits are near rivers and streams and all of them hit water tables. In more than a hundred years we don’t even have one rehabilitated open-pit,” she said. Lopez banned open-pit mining in the country during her 10 months in office before being replaced with Cimatu.

Miners applauded the panel’s recommendation and called it a positive step for the industry. The executive director of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, Ronald Recidoro, said open-pit mining is an “accepted method worldwide” to extract shallow mineral deposits. Recidoro noted that safety and environmental protection presents challenges during and after open-pit mining.

In September, the country’s President Rodrigo Duterte said he agreed with Lopez that open-pit mining in the Philippines should stop. Earlier this year, Duterte told mining companies “I will tax you to death” unless they restore the “virginity” of exploited land.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Shaw, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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