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Philippines halts eighth nickel miner after audit

Monday, August 15, 2016 - 11:40

[SHANGHAI] The Philippines has suspended an eighth nickel ore mine and threatened to shut the nation's biggest coal producer amid an environmental probe ordered by the new government that's due to finish next week.

Emir Mineral Resources Corp of Eastern Samar province in central Philippines, which produced about 150,000 metric tons of nickel ore last year, has had its permit suspended, environment and natural resources secretary Gina Lopez said in a televised briefing in Manila on Thursday.

A chromite miner in the province, Mt Sinai Mining Exploration and Development Corp, has also been halted, she said.

Ms Lopez announced a nationwide audit of miners upon taking office in early July, pledging to close those that fail international standards.

The seven nickel mines shuttered before the latest suspension had production amounting to about 8 per cent of last year's output of 32.5 million tons, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, part of Ms Lopez's department.

Of those, just one has been in operation this year, while the others had either been subject to earlier suspensions or were running down stockpiles, according to the bureau. Another iron ore miner has also been shuttered as part of Ms Lopez's probe.

Nickel has risen almost 8 per cent since the start of July on fears that the crackdown will crimp exports and tighten global supply. China, the biggest consumer, relies heavily on shipments from the Philippines for its stainless steel industry and Emir Mineral Resources was a supplier.

Ms Lopez also said Semirara Mining & Power Co, the country's dominant coal producer, must explain why its environmental permits should not be suspended for alleged environmental violations.

Semirara fully complies with all laws and regulations, the company said in a subsequent statement. Its shares dropped as much as 6.7 per cent.

The environment secretary made the same request of the developer of the Tampakan copper and gold project in South Cotabato province - part of some US$20 billion to US$30 billion of mining investments lined up over the next five to 10 years.

Ms Lopez had already said she won't allow Tampakan to start operations.

Glencore Plc sold Tampakan to the Philippines' Alcantara Group in 2014.

BLOOMBERG