Philippine ‘shock and awe’ mine crackdown rattles nickel markets – by Manolo Serapio Jr. and Enrioc Dela Cruz (Reuters U.S. – August 5, 2016)

MANILA – As the Philippines’ tough-talking new president ratchets up a campaign against irresponsible mining, the suspension of a quarter of the country’s nickel mines and the risk of more action to come is spooking global nickel markets.

The Southeast Asian nation is China’s biggest supplier of nickel ore – used to make stainless steel – and with few alternative suppliers available, the crackdown pushed nickel prices up 13 percent last month.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who swept to power on June 30 with a vow to crush crime by targeting hundreds of suspected drug dealers, warned miners this week to follow tighter environmental rules or shut down, saying the country can survive without mining.

“Whether it is legal or not it will destroy the country,” Duterte told a forum on Thursday. “It’s about time to reconfigure the wealth of the nation among its citizens.”

Six out of 27 nickel mines were suspended in the first weeks of an audit that began on July 8 – representing 8 percent of total output – and the suspension of a seventh was announced on Thursday.

Mining has powerful opponents in the Philippines, including the influential Catholic Church, following public anger over past environmental disasters and the displacement of local communities.

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