MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines' environment chief on Tuesday ordered 75 mining contracts canceled because the projects are located in watersheds, intensifying her crackdown against mines that she says harm the environment.
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez made the announcement just weeks after ordering the closure of 23 mines and the suspension of five others for damaging watersheds and causing siltation in coastal waters and farms. The order elicited an outcry from the mining industry, which has called for a reversal of the decision.
Lopez told reporters that the mining companies can appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte, who will make the final decision, or go to court.
The mines ordered closed include nickel mines that account for about half of the annual output in the Philippines, the world's biggest nickel ore producer.
Lopez said the 75 mineral production sharing agreements being canceled are for projects that have not started operation. All companies involved will receive the order by Wednesday and will be given seven days to reply and show why the deals should not be canceled, she added.
"You kill water, you kill life," Lopez told reporters, referring to watersheds that would be affected by the projects. She said there should be no mining in watershed areas.
Lopez said the order was her office's "gift of love" and "gift of life" to the people on Valentine's Day.
The canceled deals include the $5.9 billion Tampakan copper-gold project in the southern province of South Cotabato that was to use open-pit mining on land the size of 700 football fields.
The project, believed to contain one of the world's biggest copper-gold deposits, has encountered years of delays since the province banned open-pit mining in 2010, prompting Anglo-Swiss miner Glencore Plc to quit the project in 2015.