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Philippines ends open pit mining ban for gold, copper, silver as industry falters

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Ban was imposed in 2017 when the industry was overseen by an anti-mining advocate

Mining is a major part of the Philippines’ economy |Photo by AFP via Getty Images

The Philippines has lifted a four-year-old ban on open-pit mining for copper, gold, silver, and complex ores, marking the government’s second major policy shift this year as it attempts to revitalize the industry.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu signed an administrative order lifting the ban on Tuesday, according to Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Wilfredo Moncano.

The ban was imposed by the government in 2017, when the ministry in charge of the mining industry was led by an anti-mining advocate who accused the industry of causing extensive environmental damage.

Following several years of restrictive policies blamed for industry stagnation, the government now wants stalled and new mining projects to attract investments and help stimulate the pandemic-hit economy.

President Rodrigo Duterte lifted a 2012 moratorium on new mineral agreements in April.

According to Moncano, open-pit mining is still a widely used method of extracting minerals around the world.

Cimatu’s predecessor at the environment department, Regina Lopez, had enforced the ban, infuriating miners who argued that the country’s vast copper and gold deposits could only be mined openly.

However, environmental activists were outraged by the policy shift, with the Alyansa Tigil Mina (Alliance to End Mining) group calling it “a short-sighted and misplaced development priority of the government.”

According to the government, the Philippines’ annual export revenue from the mineral extraction industry could increase by up to $2 billion (£1.5 billion) over the next five to six years as new mining projects begin.

The Southeast Asian country is China’s largest nickel ore supplier, and it also has significant copper and gold reserves.

According to the mines bureau, more than a third of the Philippines’ total land area of 30 million hectares (74.1 million acres) has been identified as having “high mineral potential,” but only about 5% of its mineral reserves have been extracted so far.

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