President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a stop to all mining operations on a small island in the southern Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the president gave the order for the suspension of mining on Tumbagaan Island off Languyan town during the Cabinet meeting on Monday, January 11.
“The president is very much concerned about reports that the island has been completely devastated as a result of mining operations in the area,” said Nograles.
“The island has at this point, been mined out,” he said, adding that while rehabilitation efforts are underway, Duterte has issued a directive to stop any and all mining operations on the island.
The president has also ordered to step up the rehabilitation of the area “by planting more trees and other efforts of rehabilitation.”
Mining operations in Tawi-Tawi are not closely monitored by the Philippines’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau because the province is within an autonomous region.
Duterte’s order does not cover the country’s nickel mining hub in Caraga region also in Mindanao.
In 2019 SR Languyan Mining Corp, one of the miners operating in Tawi-Tawi, said the island’s ore deposits, which were considered high-grade material, were nearly depleted after years of continuous ore extraction.
The Philippines has become the biggest supplier of nickel ores to top metals consumer China since Indonesia banned the export of unprocessed minerals in January last year.
The Southeast Asian country’s mostly low-grade material is used in producing nickel pig iron, the main ingredient for stainless steel.
Since he assumed power in 2016, Duterte has repeatedly threatened to shut down the country’s mining industry, castigating miners for damaging the environment.
The group Alyansa Tigil Mina welcomed the president’s order and called for a new round of industrywide audit of all mining operations across the country.
The group said it had monitored gold mining projects in the province of Tawi-Tawi as early as 2016.
“We demand that the stoppage order be immediately implemented and an audit of the mine operations be done,” said Jaybee Garganera, the group’s spokesman.
Leon Dulce of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said Duterte’s directive should be fairly applied across the country.
He said at least 68 percent of large-scale mines in the country were found to have perpetrated various violations.