Philippine mine closure orders to be issued Wednesday - minister

MANILA, Feb 8 (Reuters) - The Philippine minister at the centre of a row over her decision to shut more than half the country’s mines said closure orders would be released on Wednesday, after mining firms questioned the absence of any formal notices.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez also agreed to release the recommendations of a panel she created to review the results of a months-long mining industry audit in the world’s biggest exporter of nickel ore.

The panel had recommended only fines and suspensions, sources told Reuters, but on Feb. 2 the minister ordered 23 of the country’s 41 metallic mines to shut and suspended five more for alleged environmental violations.

Most of the mines produce nickel ore and concerns about supply disruptions have rocked the nickel market.

On Wednesday, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines industry group accused Lopez of “short-cutting” the audit and decision-making process and said its members facing penalties had yet to receive any formal notice from the minister.

“The process ... was not fair, it’s not legal. She’s short-cutting the entire thing,” Ronald Recidoro, the industry group’s spokesman, said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.

Lopez, however, said she had issued an “omnibus directive” before her Feb. 2 announcement and reiterated that her decision was fair and legal.

“Our lawyers have decided (the closure and suspension orders) should be issued to individual mining companies,” Lopez said in a statement on Wednesday. (Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; editing by David Clarke)