Philippines may consider ban on exports of unprocessed minerals: official

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines may consider banning exports of unprocessed minerals in an effort to promote value addition in the mining sector, a senior environment official said on Friday.

The Philippines is the world’s top nickel ore supplier, shipping nearly all of its output to China. Previous governments have supported calls to spur domestic processing of raw minerals but earlier efforts in Congress to enact appropriate laws have failed to take off.

“It’s one of the things we’re considering for any mine that we think should remain operating,” Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Maria Paz Luna told reporters. “In the long term that will help our economy because that will increase the value of the products.”

“It is one of the options that has to be considered not only by the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) but by the entire government,” she said.

Luna spoke after a meeting with other officials of the government’s Mining Industry Coordinating Council tasked to conduct a second review of 28 mines ordered closed or suspended by the environment ministry.

The Philippines became the world’s top nickel ore exporter after Indonesia banned exports of unprocessed ore in 2014.

Congressman Erlpe John Amante in August revived his proposal to ban ore exports after three to five years and force miners to invest in local processing plants.

The Southeast Asian nation has four mineral processing plants, two for gold and two for nickel.

The second review will initially cover 23 mines ordered shut by the environment ministry to protect watersheds and another five that were suspended.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the three-month review, announced in February, would continue even if the appointment of Environment Secretary Regina Lopez who ordered the mine closures is not confirmed by Congress.

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Writing by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Richard Pullin