* Manila has already halted 10 mines, 20 more at risk
* Minister says mines will be given time to fix violations
* Philippines is the world's top nickel ore supplier
(Adds more quotes from minister, Marcventures, background)
By Manolo Serapio Jr
MANILA, Sept 30 The Philippines said on Friday
it may not halt operations at all 20 mines facing suspension for
environmental violations and will give them time to address
problems -- a softening of a tough stance that has seen 10 mines
shut and a spike in nickel prices.
Asked if it was possible that not all 20 mines would be
suspended, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina
Lopez told Reuters: "Yes, if they are able to fix whatever"
needs to be fixed.
"Some of the violations though will take time to fix. So
they need to use their employees to fix it. They should put
measures to make sure it doesn't happen again. The welfare of
the people is paramount," said Lopez, a committed
The Philippines, the world's top supplier of nickel ore, on
Tuesday ordered the suspension of another 20 mines, sending
nickel to a seven-week high of $10,900 a tonne on the
London Metal Exchange. The price has since retreated, pulling
back further to $10,375 on Friday after Lopez's comments.
Lopez on Tuesday said that the 20 mines, 12 of them nickel
producers, will be given seven days to explain any violations
and submit measures to rectify them.
Only 11 out of the Philippines' 41 mines passed a two-month
audit aimed at punishing those causing environmental harm.
The 10 suspended nickel mines and those at risk of being
halted account for nearly 60 percent of the Philippines' nickel
Lopez said some of the violations uncovered in the audit
were minimal, while some involve the destruction of the
environment and would take time to be addressed. Those with
serious environmental lapses will still be suspended, she said.
The Philippine accounts for nearly a quarter of the world's
mined nickel supply, most of which is shipped to China.
Marcventures Mining and Development Corp, whose
nickel mine was among the 20 facing suspension, said its audit
findings "are defensible and can be reversed".
In a stock exchange filing, Marcventures said there appears
to have been some "unintended oversight in the audit" citing
matters that have yet to be acted upon by the environment
agency, including approval of its mine rehabilitation plan.
Lopez's stance on mining is backed by President Rodrigo
Duterte who had warned miners to strictly follow tighter
environmental rules or be shut down, saying the nation could
survive without a mining industry.
Past environmental disasters, including a 1996 tailings leak
at a copper mine in central Marinduque province that
contaminated rivers, have spurred mining opponents in the
Philippines led by the influential Catholic Church.
Miners, however, have questioned the latest review,
particularly the inclusion of anti-mining activists in the audit
(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Christian
Schmollinger and Michael Perry)