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A view of nickel ore stockpiles at a port in Sta Cruz Zambales in northern Philippines February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro


By Manolo Serapio Jr

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine government will move forward with a second review of the country's mines despite the removal of Regina Lopez as environment minister, a finance official said on Thursday.

The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), an inter-agency panel that includes the finance and environment ministries, ordered a review in February of the operations and the environmental and social impacts of the country's mines.

"Definitely it will continue because it's the mandate of the MICC to do just that regardless of who's in the (Department of Environment and Natural Resources)," Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said in a statement.

The review will cover all 41 mines operating in the Philippines, including the 26 that Lopez had earlier ordered closed or suspended in February after a months-long audit last year led by the environment ministry. She also cancelled dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines in the world's top nickel ore supplier.

The MICC ordered the review following criticism from miners that Lopez's decision was baseless and lacked due process.

Lawmakers comprising the Commission of Appointments rejected Lopez as environment minister at a vote on Wednesday, ending her 10-month mining crackdown, which was backed by President Rodrigo Duterte but led to demands for her removal.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines has said it would seek to undo Lopez's moves when a new minister was appointed.

Agabin said the review will also include contracts for undeveloped mines.

Lopez earlier asked Duterte to halt the second mine review, challenging its legality despite initially supporting it.

The MICC is still in the process of selecting who will comprise the team that will inspect the mines, which is expected to take three months.

(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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