August 4, 2016 / 5:25 AM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-Philippines suspends seventh nickel miner in environmental crackdown

* Suspended miner is Claver Mineral, controlled by local lawmaker

* Minister says suspended mines need to be rehabilitated (Adds quotes from mining officials)

By Manolo Serapio Jr and Enrico Dela Cruz

MANILA, Aug 4 (Reuters) - The Philippine government has suspended the operations of a seventh nickel miner, Claver Mineral Development Corp, a minister said on Thursday, deepening an environmental crackdown that has caused jitters in global nickel markets.

The Philippines is the biggest supplier of nickel ore to top market China and the suspension of some mines and the risk of more closures sent global nickel prices to an 11-month high of $10,900 a tonne on July 21.

“Today we are suspending Claver Mineral. We will audit all the mine sites of Mindanao,” Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez said, referring to the nickel-rich southern Philippine island. Claver runs a mine in the Surigao del Norte province in Mindanao.

Lopez made the announcement during a mining forum in southern Davao City, but did not immediately say what prompted the suspension.

The government has now suspended seven miners, all of them nickel producers, amid an ongoing audit that began on July 8 that aims to check whether companies are complying with regulations to protect the environment where they’re operating.

Claver Mineral did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Congressman Prospero Pichay Jr has taken control of the company after acquiring a 60 percent stake in September 2015, according to Claver Mineral’s website.

“Those who violated the laws, who allowed the improper mining of areas of Mindanao, they must be held accountable,” Mario Luis Jacinto, director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said at the forum.

In 2012, the bureau ordered the suspension of Claver’s mining operations due to excessive silt buildup in the area where it is located, local media reported.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday warned mining companies to strictly follow tighter environmental rules or shut down, saying the Southeast Asian nation could survive without a mining industry.

“I would like that the mining companies, the ones that we suspend, must rehabilitate. That is social justice,” Lopez said.

Three-month nickel on the London Metal Exchange peaked at $10,770 on Thursday. (Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr. and Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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