The government stopped the ore shipment of a unit of Nickel Asia Corp. from Manicani Island in Eastern Samar, Environment Secretary Regina Lopez said Wednesday.
“We are suspending the retrieving of the stockpiles to address the ecological balance,” Lopez said at the sidelines of the general meeting of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines in Makati City.
Nickel Asia’s affiliate Hinatuan Mining Corp. operates a nickel mine in Manicani Island. The Environment Department suspended the operations of Hinatuan Mining in Manicani in 2011, but allowed the mining company to dispose ore stockpile.
“In the audit, they are taking too much soil. They are taking the soil out and it goes to China,” Lopez said.
“I am committed to the welfare of people in the island, to get them out of poverty,” she said.
Lopez said the company should use the ore stockpile for mine restoration. “They have to use it for restoration, put it back in the hole,” Lopez said.
Hinatuan Mining already made eight shipments of ore from Manicani Island, involving 400,000 metric tons of nickel ore. “There are 1.4 million metric tons of nickel ore left,” Lopez said.
“I am not against mining. All decisions are made based on the common good. They can’t adversely affect farms, rice fields and rivers,” Lopez said.
Nickel Asia president Gerard Brimo said in a statement the company had not yet received the order. Nickel Asia’s stock fell 4.1 percent Wednesday to close at P5.80.
“On the Manicani issue, our subsidiary Hinatuan Mining Corp. has not engaged in mining since the late 1990s and has been directed by the DENR-MGB [Mines and Geosciences Bureau] last year to remove the stockpiles of mostly low-grade limonite ore that was accumulated during the mining operations then,” Brimo said.
Brimo said Nickel Asia had explained to Lopez that the removal of the stockpiles was the right thing to do from an environmental perspective, as it would do away with any potential environmental impact that such stockpiles might pose, while at the same time providing badly needed employment and tax revenues.
“We have not received any order from the DENR-MGB to cease the removal of the stockpiles,” Brimo said.
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