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Philippines' environment minister says ban on open-pit mining to stay in place

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The Philippines' environment minister Roy Cimatu said on Monday he would not lift a ban on open-pit mining imposed in April in an anti-pollution crackdown, as an inter-agency mining council reviews how miners are taxed in the Philippines.

[MANILA] The Philippines' environment minister Roy Cimatu said on Monday he would not lift a ban on open-pit mining imposed in April in an anti-pollution crackdown, as an inter-agency mining council reviews how miners are taxed in the Philippines.

Mr Cimatu, a former general, was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte in May after Mr Duterte's previous choice as environment minister, firebrand Regina Lopez, failed to secure congressional confirmation after a drive to implement radical environment protection measures that raised mining industry hackles.

"There is a department order on the ban on open pit mining issued by Secretary Lopez," Mr Cimatu told a news conference in the capital. "It still stays." Staunch environmentalist Lopez led a 10-month campaign to rein in the mining industry, ordering the closure or suspension of 26 mines in the world's top nickel ore supplier and imposing a ban on open-pit mining.

The fate of those mines remained uncertain, with Mr Cimatu taking a more measured approach since taking office. He told reporters on Monday he was in no rush to make a decision on whether to maintain, modify, or reverse his predecessor's orders.

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"I don't want to put pressure on my people," Mr Cimatu said.

"No need to rush. We have to review voluminous documents. I need to look at all the evidence that the companies gave us." Following the environment minister's remarks, the Philippines' mining and oil subindex dropped 0.11 per cent, reversing early gains, as of the Manila exchange's noon break.

Mr Duterte said last week he wanted to stop exporting unprocessed mineral resources and warned miners in the world's top nickel ore supplier he would impose more taxes on the industry to raise money to help communities hurt by their operations.

Mr Cimatu said both proposals were being discussed in the mining council.

Shipment of metallic mineral resources from the Philippines continues despite the tough business environment and uncertain future that miners are facing, as well as a seasonal drop in local output due to unfavourable weather.

Nickel ore output in the Philippines fell 51 per cent in the first quarter due to rains and the suspension of mine operations, according to the latest government data available.

REUTERS

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