Archive | Nickel Laterites

Policy upheavals buffet mining in Philippines, Indonesia – by Cliff Venzon and Wataru Suzuki (Neikkei Asian Review – May 25, 2017)

Governments and companies struggle for common ground amid shaky recovery

SANTA CRUZ, Philippines/JAKARTA — In the eyes of Diosdado Alota, chief of Guinabon village in the northwest Philippines, the mining industry is key to his community’s health.

Until the national government ordered a suspension of operations in 2014 over alleged river pollution, a nickel mine belonging to LNL Archipelago Minerals employed 80% of the village’s men and annually financed 3 million pesos ($60,000) worth of road work, streetlights and other infrastructure.

“These anti-mining [campaigners] ruined everything,” Alota said. “They say [mining] is destructive to the environment, but I believe natural resources are God’s gift to people.” Not all villagers agree with Alota’s view. On May 14, a number of them joined a group of 20 protesters for a Mother’s Day rally against mining in front of the town hall in nearby Santa Cruz, whose surrounding hills have been stripped of vegetation by miners. Continue Reading →

Philippines struggles to balance environment, mining (Deutsche Welle – May 17, 2017)

The fight for environmental protection in the Philippines has faced a setback with the recent downfall of the Southeast Asian nation’s outspoken environment chief, Regina Lopez, who earned the ire of the mining industry after accusing it of corruption.

Even President Rodrigo Duterte, who enjoys widespread popularity, said he was helpless to save Lopez from being dismissed by a panel of lawmakers – the Commission on Appointments (CA) – scrutinizing her appointment. Duterte suggested “lobby money” influenced the decision.

Lopez was handpicked by the president to head the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), claiming that her passion for the environment made her a natural choice for the post. The president’s pick was widely applauded by environmental groups, but less by the business sector. Continue Reading →

COLUMN-Nickel ore oversupply looms, threatening refined prices – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – May 11, 2017)

May 11 It may be going from bad to worse for the nickel price, with conciliatory comments from the new mining minister in top ore producer the Philippines adding to the risks of the market being pushed into oversupply.

Former army general Roy Cimatu was appointed by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on May 8 to replace Regina Lopez, whose confrontational approach to mining won her friends among environmentalists but not among enough politicians, resulting in her dismissal by the Southeast Asian nation’s Congress.

Cimatu was cautious in initial comments to the media, in stark contrast to the firebrand approach of his predecessor, who shut down almost half the country’s mines, citing environmental breaches. Continue Reading →

New Philippines environment minister says possible to balance mining, nature – by Manolo Serapio Jr (Reuters U.S. – May 9, 2017)

MANILA – The Philippines’ new environment minister said it was possible to strike a balance between mining and protecting natural resources, but added that he needed time to assess mine closures ordered by his dismissed predecessor.

President Rodrigo Duterte this week named Roy Cimatu as replacement for staunch environmentalist Regina Lopez, a move welcomed by miners in the world’s top nickel ore producer but opposed by green groups who said he does not have a track record in conservation.

“There are countries where mining contributes a lot to the economy and environmentalists are not screaming,” Cimatu told Reuters in a phone interview on Tuesday. “I think it can be done … (balancing) environment (protection) and responsible mining.” Continue Reading →

Philippines Duterte names ex-army general as environment minister – by Manolo Serapio Jr (Reuters U.S. – May 8, 2017)

MANILA – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed a former military man as the new environment minister after Congress dismissed his first choice, who ordered the closure of more than half of the mines in the world’s top nickel ore supplier.

Former army general and ambassador Roy Cimatu will take over from Regina Lopez, a move welcomed by miners who have questioned the legality of Lopez’s measures. But environmental group Greenpeace and the Catholic Church expressed doubts that Cimatu will carry on with any meaningful reforms.

“We are confident that Secretary Cimatu shall faithfully serve the interest of the country and the Filipino people in his capacity as the new DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Secretary,” Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement on Monday. Continue Reading →

The French Election in the Pacific – by Grant Wyeth (The Diplomat – May 3, 2017)

The outcome of the French presidential election has ramifications for Paris’ Pacific territories.

While the two-candidate runoff for France’s presidency this coming Sunday poses a potential existential threat for Europe, the result will also be of great significant for France’s overseas territories in the Pacific.

Although the territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia have some levels of autonomy and their own elected assemblies, they legally remain part of France, and are therefore afforded the right to participate in France’s legislative and presidential elections. And they are, of course, also greatly affected by France’s election outcomes.

However, despite this right and the potential for a dramatic shift in the French state’s agenda should the National Front’s Marine Le Pen win the presidency, there seems to be general voter apathy, or a disconnect, within France’s Pacific territories. Continue Reading →

Philippines environment minister ousted over anti-mining campaign – by Manolo Serapio Jr and Enrico Dela Cruz (Reuters U.S. – May 3, 2017)

MANILA – Philippine lawmakers ended a 10-month crusade by Environment Secretary Regina Lopez on Wednesday, forcing out the eco-warrior whose mining crackdown was backed by the president but led to demands for her removal by miners.

The rejection of Lopez by the Commission on Appointments is final and a mining lobby group immediately said it would seek a reversal of her measures, while President Rodrigo Duterte’s office said he would respect the decision.

Lopez characterized her campaign as a fight against greedy miners who were threatening public health and damaging nature in a country better known for mountains and beaches than resources. The 63-year-old daughter of a media mogul who left her privileged Philippine life behind when she was a teenager, had ordered the closure of more than half of the mines in the world’s top nickel ore supplier and last week banned open-pit mining. Continue Reading →

Sherritt surrenders equity share at Ambatovy to cut $1.4B in debt – by Andrew Topf ( – May 1, 2017)

Canada-based nickel miner Sherritt (TSX:S) has struck a deal with its partners at the Ambatovy nickel operation in Madagascar, allowing the company to eliminate $1.4 billion in debt.

In a news release, the Toronto-based firm said it will reduce its stake in the joint venture from 40% to 12%, and remain the mine operator. The nickel-cobalt mine and processing facilities are expected to run until 2024.

“After months of negotiation, I am pleased to be able to announce a resolution which removes the largest area of uncertainty for both Ambatovy and Sherritt. With this transaction, we eliminate $1.4 billion in debt from Sherritt’s balance sheet, and maintain our exposure to Ambatovy with a clean 12 per cent interest and continuity as the operator,” CEO David Pathe said in a statement. Continue Reading →

Philippine lawmaker says ’50-50 chance’ of Lopez losing environment minister job (Reuters U.S. – May 2, 2017)

There is a 50 percent chance that Philippines Environment Secretary Regina Lopez may lose her confirmation vote after holding the position for nearly a year, said the head of the country’s Senate environment committee on Tuesday.

“It’s still a 50-50 chance for Gina,” Senator Manny Pacquiao, chairman of the committee, told reporters after Lopez gave testimony at a committee hearing, referring to the minister by her nickname.

Congressional confirmations in the Philippines typically happen months after ministers start work. President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Lopez on June 30, 2016. Lawmakers will vote on her fate on Wednesday. Continue Reading →

Philippines bans open-pit mining as minister toughens crackdown – by Enrico Dela Cruz and Manolo Serapio Jr (Reuters U.S. – April 27, 2017)

MANILA – Philippine Environment Secretary Regina Lopez said on Thursday she will ban open-pit mining in the country, toughening a months-long crackdown on the sector she blames for extensive environmental damage.

The ban comes just days before the outspoken environmentalist-turned-regulator faces a confirmation hearing in Congress that could lead to her removal as minister after a storm of complaints from pro-mining groups.

Lopez, who has already ordered the closure of more than half the country’s operating mines and has previously described open pit mines as “madness”, said it was within her prerogative to ban the practice, which is allowed under Philippines mining law. Continue Reading →

Philippines top nickel miners expect firm ore prices on China demand – by Enrico dela Cruz (Reuters U.S. – April 11, 2017)

The two biggest nickel miners in the Philippines, Nickel Asia Corp and Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc, on Tuesday said prices for the metal would be robust this year due to growing demand from China.

The Philippines is the world’s top supplier of nickel ore, used to help make stainless steel, with China its No.1 market.

“The company’s prospects remain optimistic driven by strong stainless steel demand in China,” Global Ferronickel President Dante Bravo said in a statement released with the company’s export outlook for this year. Continue Reading →

Mining suspended in cyclone-hit New Caledonia as people seek shelter – by Charlotte Greenfield and Tom Westbrook (Reuters U.s. – April 10, 2017)

WELLINGTON/SYDNEY – Cyclonic winds and heavy rain buffeted New Caledonia on Monday, prompting residents of the French South Pacific territory to seek shelter and halt mining of nickel, its most important export.

Cyclone Cook hit the main island at almost the same time as high tide, packing winds of up to 200 kph (124 mph), bringing down coconut trees to block roads and forcing residents to seek shelter indoors.

“Right now we are in the eye of the storm, it is calm, but before the wind was strong and the rain was heavy,” David Sigal told Reuters as he sheltered in the town hall of Poindimie, about 50 km (31 miles) north of where the storm hit land. Floods, and waves as tall as 10 meters (33 feet), were also forecast by weather authorities. Continue Reading →

Philippines nickel miner seeks Duterte help to unfreeze ore (Reuters/Asia Times – April 9, 2017)

A suspended Philippine nickel miner has asked President Rodrigo Duterte to allow it to ship ore stockpiles after some cargoes were seized as tensions escalated over a required fee it claimed was illegal.

BenguetCorp Nickel Mines has filed an urgent motion with Duterte’s office to issue a cease and desist order against the environment ministry after its officers, along with agents of the National Bureau of Investigation, raided its operations on Thursday, halting the loading of nickel ore into two Chinese vessels, a company official told Reuters on Sunday.

Reuters reported last month that eight nickel miners, including BenguetCorp Nickel, were suspended for environmental breaches in a mining crackdown.However, miners in the world’s top producer of the raw metal were allowed to remove previously mined ore that could pose environmental hazards. Continue Reading →

Palm-fringed indecision: Votes loom on the future of New Caledonia and Bougainville (The Economist – April 6, 2017)

The first Pacific island may choose to stay part of France, but the second could split from Papua New Guinea

IT HAS been six years since the birth of the world’s youngest country, South Sudan, in 2011. It may soon have some younger siblings. The Pacific island of New Caledonia is due to hold a referendum on independence from France by November next year; Bougainville, 1,200 miles to the north (see map), is supposed to vote on separation from Papua New Guinea in 2019.

The timing of the two referendums was fixed decades ago, to defuse long-festering conflicts. But the approach of the appointed time is raising tricky questions about how to word the question on the ballot, who should have the right to vote and what to do once the results are in.

New Caledonia’s secessionist uprising ended in 1988 when leaders of the indigenous Kanaks and French loyalist politicians agreed to hold a vote on independence a decade later. When that deadline arrived, the two sides approved a further delay of 15-20 years. Continue Reading →

[Philippines] Middle ground on mining? – by Cielito F. Habito (Philippine Daily Inquirer – April 4, 2017)

I have always said that on the matter of mining, there is no room for extreme positions. Productive public discussion on mining requires that it be done rationally and dispassionately, freed from emotions and especially from impressions and perceptions that are not grounded on facts.

Amid the large volume of arguments and assertions coming from both sides of the issue, with both even citing biblical references for support, there is a need to distill hard facts from mere claims, untruths and half-truths.

I know it’s hard not to be emotional for those who have directly witnessed and felt the ill effects certain mining activities have had on communities, lives and livelihoods. It is also hard for industry advocates not to get emotional when stonewalled by closed minds simply unwilling to listen to reason and evidence-based arguments. Continue Reading →