Philippine lawmakers have rejected the appointment of controversial environment and natural resources secretary Regina Lopez who had ordered the closure of half of their country’s mines, including one owned and operated by Australia’s OceanaGold.Ms Lopez angrily hit back over the decision, accusing business interests of destroying dreams for her island-nation to be free of mining.
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Oceana Gold operates Didipio, one of the world’s lowest-cost gold mines 270 kilometres north of Manila that employs 1,800 people, mostly Filipinos. Photo: Jason South JPS “You’ll get clobbered…anyone who’s here if they have the guts and the courage to step on business interests you’ll get killed,” she told reporters after secret vote in the Philippine Congress.”It was not my dream. It was a dream and a promise that we had for the country and it’s unfortunate that business interests have in fact run the day,” she said.The vote to reject Ms Lopez after only 10 months in the job is seen as a victory for both existing and potential miners she had targeted in a campaign to fight environmental degradation.The minerals-rich Philippines is the world’s biggest nickel ore producer.
Earlier this year the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines accused Ms Lopez of ordering the closures without giving the companies the opportunity to oppose the decision.Melbourne headquartered OceanaGold appealed directly to Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte to overturn the order and warned that if negotiations to keep it opened failed the company would consider “all legal and administrative remedies” available to “ensure there is no disruption to the mine and workforce.”OceanaGold operates Didipio, one of the world’s lowest-cost gold mines 270 kilometres north of Manila that employs 1,800 people, mostly Filipinos.An audit of the mine last year done for Ms Lopez found the mine was not causing any significant environmental damage outside of its mining concession.In April, Ms Lopez, a close ally of Mr Duterte, expressed frustration that her order for OceanaGold and more than 20 other mining companies to close their operations had not been carried out.She also cancelled dozens of future…