Thach Khe Iron Mine project poses environmental risks

Experts and local authorities in Ha Tinh Province have expressed concerns over environmental risks and suggested halting the Thach Khe Iron Mine project.

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Ha Tinh Province Vice Chairman Duong Tat Thang said they should reconsider Thach Khe Iron Mine project as the economic results are unclear while the environmental and social consequences are huge.

A conference about Thach Khe Iron Mine project was held on July 27 after scientists in various fields such as mining, geology and irrigation of the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations conducted impact assessments on the project.

“The conference discussed mining technology, processing technology, economic efficiency and the impact on the environment as well as on the daily lives of local people,” Thang said.    

If the project is carried out, they will have to deal with groundwater depletion, saltwater intrusion, how to deal with 200,000 cubic metres of waste water that is discharged each day, and how to relocate the nearby residential areas that are housing thousands of people.

Vu Trong Hong, former deputy minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, raised concerns about the vulnerable location of the mine. This location often has storms and a 6.1 Richter earthquake had occurred there.

Finally, the project’s investor, Thach Khe Iron JSC, lacks the required finance.

All attendants agreed that it would be dangerous to continue the project. Dang Trung Thuan, chairman of Vietnam Geochemistry Association said Vietnam didn’t have many options. It can continue to carry out the project without caring about the consequences or shut the mine down and accept to lose the initial investment.

The third option is to halt the project so that investor can improve their technology and measures to deal with environmental impacts. However, the workers and investment plan will be affected.

Thang said he and the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations would gather opinions to submit to the government.

Thach Khe Iron Mine Project covers 3,877 hectares and was given approved in 2007. The Thach Khe Iron JSC was then set up with VND2.40trn charter capital.

In May, the authorities in Ha Tinh Province proposed to close the Thach Khe Iron Mine as thousands of local people in six coastal communes have experienced many difficulties in the past nine years.

They can’t easily repair their houses and slow ground clearance work means many haven’t had their compensation or had resettlement plans for them yet. On-going construction at the mines means there is a lack of clean water and their agricultural land has been minimised.

Moreover, in the long run, they will face severe pollution problem, desertification, sandstorms and declining groundwater. Ha Tinh Chairman Duong Tat Thang also expressed concerns about environmental issues like the saltwater intrusion and waste water treatment.


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