Philippine environment President Rodrigo Duterte has been asked to halt a second review of 28 mines that she ordered closed or suspended, more than half the country’s mines.
The move has sparked controversy across the industry and the government's Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), an inter-agency panel that includes the finance ministry, is conducting a review of the mines following claims that the original decision was baseless and lacked due process.
"The MICC is not mandated to do a review of any mining operation. The only agency that can do a review of mining operations is DENR, and that's what we've done," Lopez told Reuters, referring to her environment agency.
Duterte has been a key backer Lopez, a committed environmentalist, in the increasingly contentious dispute.
Lopez faces a Philippine legislative hearing set for Wednesday 8 March to confirm her appointment after an initial hearing was postponed last week. She is among just a few of Duterte's appointees yet to get the green light from lawmakers.
On Feb. 2, Lopez ordered the closure of 23 of 41 mines in the world's top nickel ore supplier and suspended five others to protect watersheds after a months-long review last year by the environment agency.
A second review of the affected mines was agreed last week from MICC, issuing a joint resolution signed by Lopez and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez who co-chair the mining council.
"Whether I signed it or not the fact of the law is the law," Lopez said.
The role of the MICC
The MICC was created through a 2012 executive order by former President Benigno Aquino and tasked, as part of its duties, to review mining laws and regulations and ensure their implementation.
Lopez said she's challenging the review, which will 50 million pesos ($1 million).
"I've already done the review, what more do you want?" she asked.
Miners have contested the closure and suspension orders, which a mining industry group has said would affect 1.2 million people that depend on mining for their livelihood.
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