Philippines’ Environment Secretary Regina Lopez has announced a ban on new open-pit mining ventures. The move comes following a months-long crackdown on the industry.
In February, Lopez ordered the permanent closure of 22 of the country’s 41 operating open-pit mines, and the cancellation of 73 contracts for ventures still in exploratory phases.
Lopez told a media briefing on Thursday the ban is based on extensive environmental damage as well as economic drawbacks.
“Each open pit is a financial liability for government for life,” she said. “It kills the economic potential of the place.”
She later said that existing mine pits would still be allowed to operate.
The environmentalist-turned-government minister is expected to face a confirmation hearing before congress this week that could see her removed from her post, following a surge of complaints from pro-mining groups that argue her actions are illegal.
Philippines has some of the world’s largest deposits of nickel and copper, but most have remained untapped due to a combination of poor management, population density and environmental concerns.
The country is estimated to be second only to South Africa for its average gold reserves per kilometer.