Philippines' No. 2 nickel miner to appeal canceled permit for undeveloped mine

MANILA (Reuters) - Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc, the Philippines’ second-largest nickel miner, vowed on Friday to appeal an “unlawful” government decision to cancel the environmental permit for its newly acquired Ipilan mining project.

Philippines Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Regina Lopez speaks during a news conference at the department's headquarters in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines September 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ezra Acayan

The company said its Ipilan Nickel Corp (INC) unit has not violated any law or condition under the permit, and chided the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for making a decision “without procedural due process”.

Concerned at the environmental impact of mining, the world’s top nickel ore supplier has already halted the operation of 10 mines and another 20 face suspension, stoking supply concerns and spurring a rally in global nickel prices.

The DENR on Thursday announced it had canceled the environmental compliance certificates (ECC) of three nickel mines, including INC’s, and that of gold miner United Paragon Mining Corp, for failure to comply with the conditions of the permits.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez has also warned that three more nickel producers were at risk of losing their ECCs.

Global Ferronickel described as “surprising and unfortunate” the DENR’s announcement of the ECC cancellation, (which the DENR said was due to INC’s failure to launch its Ipilan project within the 5-year period from the issuance of the permit.

Two DENR agencies - the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Environmental Management Bureau - “could very well attest to the feasibility studies and work plans that INC have so far embarked on” to carry out the Ipilan project, the company told the Philippine Stock Exchange.

“If DENR had only observed the barest minimum of administrative notice and hearing, it would have readily appreciated all the time, efforts and resources invested by INC in launching an important project,” it said.

The Ipilan nickel project in southwestern Palawan province has resources of over 50 million wet metric tonnes at 1.23 percent nickel content, which Global Ferronickel intends to export to China and Australia.

“INC thus intends to vigorously seek a reconsideration of this baseless and unlawful cancellation of ECC in due course,” said Global Ferronickel, which also has mining operation in southern Surigao del Norte province.

Lopez did not immediately respond to a Reuters’ request for comment.

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Richard Pullin