Hopes have risen that the ongoing problems with the quality of nickel ore mined in the Philippines, which have plagued shippers and their insurers for the past year, might be ameliorated as a result of the appointment of new environment minister Roy Cimato.u
The new minister told Reuters that it was possible to strike a balance between mining and protecting natural resources, but added that he needed time to assess the validity of the mine closures that were ordered by now-dismissed predecessor Regina (Gina) Lopez, a hard-line environmentalist. She had ordered more than half the country’s mines be shut down and had cancelled contracts for mines as yet undeveloped. This had led to a decline in the quality of exported ore and unreliability of safety classifications – increasing the danger of liquefaction once exported nickel ore was on board vessels. Lopez was removed last week by a panel of lawmakers that scrutinise Duterte’s appointments.
The new appointment was welcomed by mining companies but opposed by green groups. Cimatu is a former military man who briefly headed the Philippine armed forces in 2002. He said that the appointment by President Duterte had come as a complete surprise, but that he was happy to help the administration in any way he could.