The Philippine mining minister said she has asked Nickel Asia Corp to stop shipping nickel ore to China, citing environmental concerns at the company's mine on an island along the country's eastern central edge.
The move follows a government audit of Nickel Asia's operations on Manicani island, where the country's top nickel producer has stockpiled an estimated 1.4 million tonnes of ore from a closed mine.
The audit found that Nickel Asia was taking out too much soil in its Manicani hauling operations and shipping it to China along with the ore, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez told reporters after speaking at a business forum.
"It's going to disturb the ecology of the place. What we have done is we have suspended the retrieval of the stockpile in the interest of keeping that island safe, to address the ecological balance of the island," she said.
There was no immediate response from Nickel Asia to a Reuters' request for comment. Lopez said she had recently met with Nickel Asia President Gerard Brimo to relay her concern about Manicani's people and environment.
Lopez said Nickel Asia had already shipped about 400,000 tonnes of nickel ore in batches from Manicani to China.
"That's enough. That's already a lot of money," she said.
Lopez' move on Nickel Asia follows the suspension of three other Philippine nickel miners over the last three weeks, in a crackdown that has sent nickel prices to their highest in nearly 10 months over the past week.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who began a six-year term on June 30, has warned he could cancel mining projects causing environmental harm, suggesting a tough regulatory road ahead for Philippine miners. Local nickel ore producers are the biggest suppliers to China.
Nickel Asia, partly owned by Japan's Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd, has four operating mines in the Philippines.
On Monday it reported an 11.8 percent drop in ore shipments in the first half of the year, after the monsoon and large sea swells delayed exports.
Lopez, a committed environmentalist, has ordered a one-month audit from July 8 of all Philippines mines to determine whether the industry is hurting the Southeast Asian nation.
Source: Hellenic Shipping News