miners say closures to hit 1.2 million people, vow to fight back
The planned closure of 23 Philippine mines, mostly nickel
producers, and the suspension of five others will affect about 1.2 million
people, miners said, as some vowed to take legal action to contest the
Environment and Natural
Resources Secretary Regina Lopez ordered the closures and suspensions on
Thursday as she announced the results of a months-long audit on the country's
41 mines aimed at halting mining operations judged to have harmed the
Artemio Disini, chairman of
the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, told a briefing that the first
option for affected miners would be to appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte
"before going to the courts".
"We have a total 1.2
million people affected including family members," Disini said.
Finance Secretary Carlos
Dominguez said on Friday he would meet shortly with other cabinet members to
check if they have "emergency employment programs" that could
absorb workers who will lose jobs.
"My next concern is the
impact on local government finances because (miners) pay a lot of taxes to
local governments," Dominguez told reporters.
Enrique Fernandez, president
of suspended nickel miner Eramen Minerals Inc, which has now been ordered to
close, said staff levels had already fallen to 150 from more than 1,000
previously and more workers could go by the end of the month.
"The problem is the
relationship between the government and the industry. The government is more
of a regulator rather than a partner in development," Fernandez told
Still largely unexplored, the
Philippines is the world's top nickel ore supplier, but the mining sector
contributes less than 1 percent to the overall economy.
Only 3 percent of 9 million
hectares (22 million acres)identified by the state as having high mineral
reserves is currently being mined, according to government data.
Ronald Recidoro from the
Chamber of Mines said on Thursday that affected miners would "definitely"
seek legal action if President Rodrigo Duterte denied their appeal to
overturn Lopez's orders.
Duterte, who last year said
the Philippines could survive without a mining industry, on Thursday threw
his support behind Lopez's latest action.
Lopez "took it upon
herself to be the judge and the executioner of the mining industry,"
said Vicente Lao who owns chromite producer Mt. Sinai Mining Exploration and
Development Corp, which has also been ordered to close.
Most of the miners say they
have yet to receive any official instruction from Lopez's agency.
"Accordingly, our mining
operations continue," gold miner Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co, which
was ordered suspended, told the stock exchange. Lepanto said it "has not
violated any environmental laws."
BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc,
a unit of Benguet Corp, said it would use "various legal options
available to it to nullify the baseless closure order upon its receipt."
The Philippine Stock Exchange
halted trading for one hour on Friday on shares of five miners which were
either ordered shut or suspended, or their subsidiaries, including major
nickel ore producers Nickel Asia Corp and Marcventures Holdings Inc.