* Anti-mining groups represented in government audit teams
* Civic groups needed as communities' welfare paramount -
* Govt to announce more mining suspensions this week
By Manolo Serapio Jr
MANILA, Sept 13 Philippine miners facing more
mine suspensions under an environmental review backed by
President Rodrigo Duterte have stepped up their criticism of the
process, questioning the inclusion of anti-mining activists in
the review teams.
The world's top nickel ore supplier has halted operations of
10 mines, eight of them nickel, for environmental infractions,
and the government has said more suspensions will be announced
The crackdown is aimed at enforcing stricter environmental
protection measures, with Duterte warning the nation could
survive without a mining industry. But miners have labelled the
review a "demolition campaign".
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, which groups 21 of
the country's 40 metallic miners, said it had "trouble
appreciating" the inclusion in mine audit teams of groups such
as Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), which translates to Alliance To
"Why are they part of the audit team when they can hardly be
expected to be impartial?" said Chamber spokesman Ronald
"Our members are fairly confident that they have complied
with the technical and legal requirements."
ATM groups non-governmental organisations, church groups and
academic institutions working to protect Filipino communities
and natural resources threatened by large-scale mining
operations, according to its website.
The mining industry has powerful opponents in the
Phillipines, led by the influential Catholic Church, following
past environment disasters and the displacement of local
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez,
who has said open-pit mining is madness, said she had committed
to involving civic groups in the audit teams along with
"Miners need to upgrade their operations so that people
don't suffer," Lopez told Reuters, adding that issues such as
silt build-up on rivers, fishponds and rice fields around mining
sites were "unacceptable."
"The problem is that mining here has not followed rules."
ATM's partners in local communites took part in the audit
across the country, said Jonal Javier, advocacy officer for the
organisation. They told the audit team what to look into and
submitted the public's complaints against mines, he said.
The suspension of nickel mines in the Philippines and the
risk of more closures lifted global nickel prices last
month to a one-year high above $11,000 a tonne, although the
metal has since eased to just above $10,000 a tonne.
Nickel is used to make stainless steel.
The Chamber's Recidoro said four of its members had been
affected and the operations of all four remained suspended
despite having addressed environmental violations.
"How long is this suspension? Because an indefinite
suspension is tantamount to a cancellation," he said.
The Philippines' top gold mine, run by Australia's
OceanaGold Corp's, expects a positive outcome from the
audit, chief executive Mick Wilkes told Reuters in an email.
(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Richard Pullin)