President Duterte Stands Firm on Open-Pit Mining Ban

In September, Duterte said he agreed with former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez that open-pit mining in the Philippines should stop.

duterte

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has rejected the Mining Industry Coordinating Council’s recommendation to lift an open-pit mining ban in the country. Duterte said mining brings “good profit” but noted that he does not want open-pit mining because it is “destroying the soil, the environment and there are no immediate corrective measures.” The ban was introduced by former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez in April.

In addition to rejecting the recommendation from the interagency panel, he threatened to close any mine that finances the New People’s Army, which is fighting to overthrow the government. “It’s almost a public knowledge that mining companies are contributing to the taxation of the NPAs thereby giving them also strength, money to buy arms, and bullets and all in their desire to topple down the Republic of the Philippines,” Duterte said but did not name any specific companies.

The executive director at the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, Ronald Recidoro, said mining companies shared the president’s position. Recidoro told Reuters that they “condone any member supporting the New People’s Army through the payment of revolutionary taxes.” He added that doing so is “clearly against the law” and warrants persecution. Recidoro added that some of the Chamber of Mine members had their equipment burned by the NPA because they refused to pay the taxes.

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According to the country’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau the Philippines has an estimated $840 billion worth of untapped mineral resources as of 2012. Minerals currently mined include gold, nickel, copper, chromite and coal.  

Two of the largest open-pit mining projects in the country are Philex Mining’s $2 billion Silangan copper-gold project in Surigao de Norte and Sagittarius Mine’s $5.9bn Tampakan gold-copper project in South Cotabato.

Former Environmental Secretary Gina Lopez also suspended mines for environmental violations and the government has yet to decide if the mines will reopen. However, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau noted a drop in mineral output in a report on Monday. According to the report, only 17 of the country’s 30 nickel mines recorded output in the nine months to September. Nickel ore output dropped 11 percent, gold fell 3 percent, copper concentrate fell by 19 percent, silver output decreased by 11 percent and chromite dropped 47 percent during the same period.

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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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