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Philippine environment chief denies government order for Nickel Asia unit's suspension

Regina Lopez, the secretary of the Philippines' Departmentof Environment and Natural Resources, said the suspension of operations atNickel Asia Corp.'sHinatuan Mining Corp.unit on Manicani was voluntary and not ordered by the government, Philippine Daily Inquirer wrote July 25.

Just a few days earlier, Reuters reported that Lopez saidthe Philippine government requestedNickel Asia to stop exporting nickel ore from Manicani due to environmentalconcerns and that stockpiles of 1.4 million tonnes must be returned to the soil.

However, the Philippine newspaper cited a July 22 statementfrom the environment secretary, explaining that the department, or DENR, didnot issue a suspension order but the Mines Bureau sent a letter asking thecompany to explain "adverse observations" during a compositeinspection at its site within seven days.

After receiving the letter, Lopez said the Nickel AsiaHinatuan unitvoluntarily suspended loading activities in the island until it has fullyexplained the Mines Bureau's observations and the completion of the DENR'saudit on the company's mining concession.

Earlier this month, Lopez announced a nationwide of mining companies'compliance with the country's environmental standards.

Nickel Asia's four operating mines in the Philippines shipped8.54 million wet tonnes of nickel ore in the first half, than the 9.68 millionwet tonnes shipped in the same period of 2015.