* Nickel mine near heritage site and marine protected area
* Manila has already suspended a quarter of its 41 mines
* Philippines is world's top nickel ore supplier
By Manolo Serapio Jr
MANILA, Oct 10 The Philippines will cancel the
environmental permit of a nickel miner that began operations
this year, a minister said, as the government intensifies a
campaign to punish mineral producers harming natural resources.
The Southeast Asian country is the world's top nickel ore
supplier and an environmental crackdown that has halted a
quarter of its 41 mines, and the risk that 20 more maybe
shuttered has spurred a rally in global nickel prices.
But the nickel mine now threatened with a shutdown, in
southern Davao Oriental province and run by private-owned
Austral-Asia Link Mining Corp, was not among those suspended or
recommended for suspension.
The issue with the mine is it sits between Mount Hamiguitan,
a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Pujada Bay, a marine protected
area, said Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina
Lopez who calls its approval "madness".
"The ECC (environmental compliance certificate) was reviewed
and as far as I know it will be cancelled," Lopez told Reuters.
The ECC "should have never been given," she said.
Cancelling the ECC would halt the operations of
Austral-Asia's nickel mine, which started up in January, said an
official at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau who declined to be
named because he was not auhorised to speak with media.
The miner was also issued a permit to export 50,000 tonnes
of nickel ore with iron content to China in June, the official
An official at Asiaticus Management Corp, which runs
Austral-Asia, did not return a call from Reuters seeking
Manila has already halted 10 mines, eight of them nickel,
for environmental infractions in a two-month audit that began in
Twenty more have been recommended for suspension, although
Lopez said on Sept. 30 that not all 20 may be frozen.
In all, the nickel producers, including those suspended and
those at risk, account for more than half of the Philippines'
2015 nickel ore output.
The environment agency also reviewed the ECCs of other
projects, including the undeveloped $5.9 billion Tampakan
gold-copper mine and an expansion venture of Semirara Mining and
Power Corp, the Philippines' top coal producer.
Lopez declined to say whether the ECCs for Tampakan and
Semirara will be cancelled, adding that it will be discussed at
an upcoming media briefing.
She said in August that Tampakan should not have been given
an ECC since the planned mine would cover an area the size of
700 football fields in what otherwise would be agricultural
Semirara said earlier that a government audit found its
expansion project to be "technically sound".
(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Tom Hogue)