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    Deputy charges failure to term bauxite projects ‘national projects’ distorts law
    Update :Wednesday, 6-17-2009

    VietNamNet Bridge – Deputy Nguyen Minh Thuyet on May 26 argued that the National Assembly (NA) should regard the Central Highlands bauxite mining projects as national projects. The NA should oversee them and should not make quick decisions.

    Deputies Nguyen Minh Thuyet (right) and Nguyen Lan Dung.

    Thuyet, a deputy from Lang Son province who is Vice Chairman of the Committee on Culture, Education, Youth and Children, said he agrees with the Party and Government policy on bauxite mining but criticized the Government’s report to the National Assembly on the projects. He said it doesn’t provide answers to public concerns about economic benefits, the impacts on the environment and society, and national security.

    Thuyet said it is obvious that mining bauxite in the Central Highlands is a huge project, which impacts many areas and involves great capital investment. Government Decision 167 indicates that 190 to 250 trillion dong of investment capital, roughly US$ 11-14 billion, will be required to build alumina plants in Lam Dong, Dak Nong, Gia Lai and Binh Phuoc provinces. Particularly, Dak Nong province will have up to four alumina smelters.

    Deputy Thuyet stressed that the construction of a 270 kilometer-long railway into the mountains to transport ore and alumina to the coast will alone cost $3.1 billion. In addition, a port must be built on the coast. Where are the funds for these works, he asked.

    He answered himself: “If this infrastructure investment capital is calculated into the cost of the bauxite projects, the production cost of alumina would be very high and we may not earn profit from it. If this infrastructure is ‘contributed’ as public works, apparently we subsidize the project investor with tax revenues.”

    Thuyet cited experts’ calculations: the price for alumina is equivalent to 12% of aluminum. Alumina is a raw mineral. ‘Raw materials,’ according to the 10th Party Congress must be restricted for export.

    “The price for alumina in the world market has been going down. The economy is facing difficulties. We don’t know for sure that the project will yield a profit but we will have to borrow hundreds of million US dollars to build plants like Tan Rai and Nhan Co,” Thuyet emphasized.

    Deputy Thuyet also expressed his worry over environmental, security and labor issues. He said the government’s report said that reservoirs will be built in the Central Highlands. As the water flow of the Mekong River is being reduced, will the construction of dams and reservoirs affect the Mekong River Delta?

    He noted that these plants will discharge 10 million tons of red mud per year by 2015, and 1.5 billion tones over the life of this project. “These are mud bombs hung above the southern delta and the southern part of the central region,” Thuyet warned.

    He pointed out that of 300 workers so far trained for the project, only two are local workers.

    “But I was very glad to hear a deputy of a Central Highlands province say this morning that the project will pay 500 billion dong to the local governments and 1,000 local laborers will be trained. I request the NA to record these figures and check them out in the next few years,” Thuyet said.

    Addressing the security aspect, Thuyet said it was lucky that the Politburo made adjustments. Previously, the government, in its Decision 167, had allowed foreign investors 100 percent ownership of bauxite projects.

    He urged the NA to regard bauxite developments as a ‘national project’ because taken as a whole, the investment in these projects is estimated at 190 to 250 trillion dong, and that is ten times higher than the threshold for designation of a national-level project.

    “The National Assembly must investigate and render a decision at the end of this year,” Thuyet argued. “It is a distortion of the law if we treat bauxite projects as we did the Ca Mau gas-power-fertilizer project. We can’t break projects into many small parts in order to say that the investment capital of each project is less than the minimum fixed level of capital for national projects, and so they don’t need to be submitted to the NA.”.

    Deputy Nguyen Lan Dung also spoke in favor of active oversight by the Assembly.

    Earlier the same day, two deputies from Lam Dong and Dak Nong, where the Tan Rai and Nhan Co bauxite projects are under development, spoke in favor of the projects. Their speeches essentially repeated the Government’s position, emphasized the economic benefits expected from implementation of the bauxite projects and urged the Assembly’s support.

    Dak Nong province NA delegation chief Dieu K’re said that the bauxite industry will help increase the province’s gross domestic product (GDP), budget revenue, modernization and industrialization.

    Lam Dong NA delegation chief Le Thanh Phong also said that the construction of Tan Rai plant blows a new wind to the province and is considered ‘key’ by the local government.  Lam Dong, he reported, has taken 943ha of land from 743 families, and has paid compensation of VND150 billlion to 586 of them.

    The Lam Dong province government’s objective, according to Phong, is to exploit the province’s natural resources to develop the local economy while paying special attention to environment.

    LN

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