Philippines cancels permits of four more mining projects in green campaign

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines has canceled the environmental permits for four more mining projects, including one planned nickel venture, as the world’s top nickel ore supplier deepens a months-long crackdown on the resources sector.

The Southeast Asian nation has been reviewing hundreds of environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) including those granted to mines. That is separate from an environmental audit of the country’s 41 operating mines whose results are set to be released on Jan. 31.

The four revoked ECCs include one for Norwegian firm Intex Resources’ proposed $2.5-billion nickel mine on Mindoro island in the central Philippines.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez told a media briefing the project would damage the environment as it would be located on a watershed.

“Everyone there, the politicians, the church, the academe, they vehemently did not want mining there,” she said.

A member of staff at Intex’s Manila office declined to make immediate comment, saying the branch was waiting for an official response from headquarters in Norway.

Lopez, a committed environmentalist, in December canceled the ECCs of three nickel mines as part of the clampdown.

Firebrand Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has backed Lopez’s aggressive campaign against mines causing environmental harm, warning shortly after taking office in June last year that the country could survive without a mining industry.

The three other ECCs canceled on Wednesday were for a gold mine, a coal producer and an iron and copper project.

A separate mining audit has led to the suspension of 10 mines with 20 more at risk. The clampdown stoked worries about supply of nickel from the Philippines last year, helping spur a 14-percent rally in global prices.

The Philippines’ nickel ore shipments to top market China dropped 11.6 percent to 28.8 million tonnes in January-November.

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Writing and additional reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Joseph Radford