Duterte again vows to shut mines after deadly landslides

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Rescuers continue their search for missing miners in a landslide caused by Typhoon Mangkhut at a small-scale mining camp in Itogon, Benguet in the Philippines, September 18, 2018. Reuters

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has repeated his call to shut all mines in the country following deadly landslides, hours after his minister halted all small-scale mining in a mountainous gold-rich region.

“If I were to try to do my thing I will close all mining in the Philippines,” he said, presiding over a televised meeting of the government’s disaster response team two days after a powerful typhoon struck.

Mr Duterte has often criticised the mining industry, saying the environmental damage far outweighs any benefit to the economy.

His latest comments followed an order earlier by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu to stop all small-scale mining in the Cordillera region, where landslides killed 24 people.

“We have a problem with our mining industry. It has not contributed anything substantial to the national economy,” Mr Duterte said.

Mining accounts for less than 1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, although only 3 percent of the 9 million hectares identified by the state as having high mineral reserves is being mined.

The government estimates that 60-70 percent of small-scale miners in the country operate illegally, many of them digging for gold, silver and chromite.

Mr Cimatu said he was also revoking temporary mining permits given to 10 associations in the Cordillera region in the wake of the landslides.

Typhoon Mangkhut, which tore across the northern tip of the Philippines early on Saturday, killed at least 54 people, many of them due to landslides which some government officials and large miners said were exacerbated by illegal small-scale mining.

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