In a new environment protection drive, Philippines has announced that it will limit the land that miners can develop at any given time.

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President Rodrigo Duterte. Source: Pexels

As reported in local media and Reuters, the new rules – set to protect the environment and backed by President Rodrigo Duterte – target 29 of 48 mines operating in Philippines, which are nickel producers supplying ores to the world’s leading market, China.

Mining is a deeply contentious issue in the resource-rich Southeast Asian country after past examples of environmental mismanagement.

The industry group Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said it supports the government order which takes effect September 2018.

According to reports, the new rules stipulate that a 20-metre buffer zone is established inward from the mining tenement boundary near rivers and streams, where metals extraction will be banned.

Nickel miners will be limited to a production area ranging from 50 to 100 hectares at any one time, depending on the size of production and whether they have a processing plant.

The government order will allow mines producing up to 1 million tonnes of nickel ore a year to work on 50 hectares at any one time.

Those producing more can work on 60 hectares up to 100 hectares, while projects with a processing plant will be allowed up to 162 hectares.

Mining companies are required to progressively rehabilitate the same amount of land that was disturbed by mining operations.

Duterte told miners in April to reforest areas where they operate, warning he would revoke their permits if he did not “see trees as tall as he” is in six months.

Miners will be required to put up a 5 million Philippine pesos (US$93,370) performance bond every year as a guarantee that they will comply with the requirement on mine rehabilitation. The bond will be forfeited if they fail to comply.

Nickel ore output fell 10 per cent in the first half of 2018 from a year earlier to 9.43 million dry metric tons, government data showed. Eleven of the nickel mines had zero output during the period because their operations were suspended or they were under maintenance status.