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Newly-Elected President Threatens Philippines’ Mining Industry

Duterte

Ominous signs are emerging in one of the world’s most well-endowed mining nations, where a newly-elected president may be setting up for a major battle with foreign minerals firms.

The place is the Philippines. Where president elect Rodrigo Duterte made some very strong comments this past week about the mining sector — and the companies that work in it.

Duterte was elected president of the Philippines in May and is now touring the country on a series of press junkets ahead of his June 30 takeover of the federal government.

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Speaking last Thursday at one such news conference in the southern Philippines city of Davao, Duterte let rip on the mining industry. He told the assembled crowd, “I have a big problem with mining companies. They are destroying the soil of our country.”

He continued, “The mining people must shape up. It has to stop. The spoiling of the land, the destroying of Mindanao.” The latter statement was a reference to the mineral-rich southern island of the Philippines, where major copper-gold projects like the Tampakan deposit are located.

Perhaps most ominously, Duterte insinuated that he might support local mining firms over international operators. Saying, “I want it to be a cooperative of all Filipinos. We will support them and give them instructions how not to end up spoiling the land.”

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All of which is very concerning for a mining destination that has already seen a major flight of international capital the last few years - largely due to permitting issues and local opposition to the mining sector.

There had been some headway late in 2015 on permitting of copper-gold mines here. But Duterte’s comments raise the possibility that any recent advances in mining will be negated under the incoming government.

Of course, it’s possible all of this is just strong words meant to win public support. But the mining sector will be cautious as Duterte assumes the presidency in July — watch for any further news on mining policy changes here, as well as possible moves toward nationalization of mining assets.

Here’s to knowing when to fold ’em,

By Dave Forest

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