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    Deputies call for debate on Government’s bauxite report
    Update :Wednesday, 6-17-2009

    VietNamNet Bridge – Responding to repeated calls from National Assembly (NA) deputies for information on the Central Highlands bauxite mining plan, the Government provided a detailed report on May 23. Of particular significance, the Government requested the Assembly to keep the projects under review. Now many deputies are advocating that the Assembly set aside time for a plenary debate on the bauxite projects during the current session.


    Deputy Le Quang Binh, Chairman of the Committee for Defence and Security said that having heard public opinion, NA committees have prepared to speak about bauxite projects in the Central Highlands. However, this is a matter within the Government’s jurisdiction. NA committees have not been assigned to review or investigate so deputies can only give their individual views about this issue.


    Bauxite mining in the Central Highlands is an issue of national importance so NA deputies have to be very careful to base their discussion on established facts, Binh said. “I worry that this is a big issue, with different opinions about it, but NA deputies lack official information. Lacking good hard facts, it is difficult to ask deputies their opinions. At present, we deputies have to trust the government!”


    According to Chairman Binh, the Government’s report doesn’t satisfy deputies. The report said generally that with modern technology, environmental impacts will be controlled and waste will be treated safely. However, the report didn’t say how the impacts will be controlled or how the waste will be treated.


    The report also asserted that bauxite projects will not harm the country’s defence and security but it didn’t provide specific solutions, Binh said.


    The deputy said that although the bauxite projects in the Central Highlands are not on the NA’s official agenda, it is certain that they will be considered in discussions about social and economic issues.


    Binh proposed that the NA set aside a full day for a plenary debate on the bauxite projects, and assign committees to research, review and commen on the projects.


    “The Government is just one source of data. The NA will be also a channel for research. According to Resolution 66, the government and the Prime Minister have competence over bauxite projects in the Central Highlands.


    “However, the National Assembly is the supreme representative of the people, with full power to comment,” Binh emphasized.


    Danh Ut, a member of the Committee for Ethnic Affairs and vice chair of Kien Giang Province’s Assembly delegation said that “the government’s report provides more information to NA deputies than the social-economic report presented on the opening day. NA deputies have to express their voices and viewpoints about this policy.


    “Vietnam has great bauxite ore reserves and a policy on mining bauxite. It is important to implement the policy appropriately according to the Mineral Law and the Law on Environment Protection.


    “I’ve been to the Central Highlands many times during the wet season, so I know clearly how in storms, red mud reservoirs can overflow, causing environmental impacts. From the Central Highlands, red mud may flow to the Mekong River Delta, even HCM City. The two pilot projects (Tan Rai and Nhan Co) must be implemented very carefully. I’ll speak about this issue to the NA.”


    Deputy Nguyen Anh Lien, first from the left.

    Deputy Nguyen Anh Lien, a member of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee said that there are different opinions about the bauxite mining policy in the Central Highlands and it is not sure which is wrong and which is right. It is essential that the government provide sufficient information to the NA for discussion.


    “I’ve been learning about bauxite mining for a long time, through the media and scientists’ opinions. I support the Politburo’s guidance. But the way of implementation is very important. It is best to discuss this at a NA session. If the NA agrees in principle with the plan, we can go on to discuss supervision of the bauxite projects. The NA’s Committee for Science, Technology and Environment ought to be responsible for it,” he said.


    “Discussing the projects at the NA ensures the people’s democratic right and expresses the people’s will,” Lien stressed.


    The Government’s May 23 Report to the National Assembly on the Bauxite Projects


    A bauxite mining site in Dak Nong Province.

    Vietnam’s bauxite ore reserves are around 5.5 billion tones, ranking third in the world.

    National Assembly Resolution 66 requires the government to submit ‘investment projects of national importance’ to the Assembly for review. The bauxite mining planning has not been designated an ‘investment project’ within the meaning of the Resolution.


    The Government decided to locate alumina plants in coastal region rather than the Central Highlands because though the economic-social effect may be lower, the plants will help develop the Central Highlands economy. (Alumina is an intermediate product, processed from bauxite ore, in the manufacture of aluminum)


    The Vietnam Coal and Minerals Group (TKV), operator of the two projects, estimates that it will take 13 years to recover investment but over the 50 year life of the project there will be good economic benefits.


    Current aluminum prices in the international market are very low, US$ $1426 per tonne, around 70% below 2006-2007 level. The price for alumina is correspondingly reduced.  However, these projects in the Central Highlands will operate for over 50 years. The plan assumes an average of price of alumina for the duration of the project of $326 per tonne. At this level, the project will be profitable.


    The Government confirms that the Chinese technology chosen for the products is well-proven and can be applied for projects in Vietnam.


    The Government quotes TKV with respect to the use of foreign workers in the Tan Rai project as follows: only Vietnamese workers will be employed for building the plant, the bauxite mine, exploiting the ore deposits and the construction of the bauxite ore refining plant. The construction of the alumina refinery will be mainly implemented by Chinese workers contracted by the China Aluminum Company (Chalieco) and partly by Vietnamese workers.


    Around 600 Chinese and 350 Vietnamese workers were employed at the alumina plant construction site in May 2009. When the plant becomes operational, the entire workforce will be Vietnamese. As necessary during the start up phase, some foreign experts (Chinese or others) will be employed.


    Analysis shows that waste (so-called ‘red mud’) from bauxite mining sites in the Central Highlands doesn’t contain radioactive substances. However, it has a certain volume of alkali, which can impact the contiguous soil and underground water resources. The red mud, therefore, must be treated as dangerous waste.


    The treatment method to deal with the wet mud that has been chosen for the Tan Rai and Nhan Co alumina projects has been successfully applied in countries like Australia and China, but it still worries many people. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment will set up environmental supervisory groups to oversee the projects.


    The bauxite mining projects in the Central Highlands will unavoidably cause some environmental impacts. However, experience elsewhere in the world shows that it is entirely possible to remediate these impacts. It is important to tighten management, control and oversight of environmental protection measures during the construction and operational procedures of alumina projects.



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