MAC: Mines and Communities

Titanium mining hurts Vietnamese farmers

Published by MAC on 2011-06-28
Source: VietNamNet, Thanhnien News (2011-06-17)

Vietnam's government is threatening to revoke licences granted to mineral sands mining companies, if they continue contaminating the environment.

But is this too little, too late?

Titanium polluters face deregistration

VietNamNet

17 June 2011

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment will revoke the licences of titanium mining businesses found violating legal regulations and contaminating the environment, the ministry leader has said.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Pham Khoi Nguyen said that ministerial inspectors had made frequent inspections and punished violators of regulations on titanium mining operations.

He said projects on titanium mining were required to have an environmental impact report, and seek permission for mining from authorised agencies.

Local governments are responsible for monitoring the implementation of mineral exploitation projects.

Local authorities have been told to promptly identify businesses ineligible to tap titanium and those violating requirements set by the environmental impact report or polluting the environment.

Adverse impact

Titanium-ore exploiting facilities have left many villages in the central coastal provinces of Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Binh Dinh barren when forests of decades-old casuarina on sandy land have been destroyed, which led to the loss of the screen to protect villages from storms.

Mining titanium has also devastated the floral carpet, depleted underground water sources, and created sandy mountains looking like uneven scars along the coastline.

In Quang Tri Province, titanium has been mined in Vinh Linh District's Tan Hoa and Tan Thuan villages, Gio Linh District's Cang Giang, Thuy Ban and Gio My villages.

The mining area has now been expanded to Tham Khe village in Hai Lang District.

Despite petitions sent by local people to authorities from the grassroots to central level, a workshop owned by titanium ore miner Hieu Giang Co Ltd has been built to the west of the village, with hundreds of screw-shaped drillers in place.

Villager Tran Ngoc Trai said that recent TV reports had shown the aftermath of the titanium mining in Binh Dinh and Phu Yen provinces.

He cited a survey by local villagers in Vinh Linh and Gio Linh districts which found that groundwater levels in Gio Linh are at risk of depletion.

The survey discovered that land had been left deserted, and water sources in Vinh Linh District were threatened with saline intrusion.

He said he could not understand why titanium exploitation was still permitted despite repeated protests from local residents.

Hundreds of villagers protested the project in 2006 when the Hieu Giang company conducted the first survey.

Although the second survey met with stronger reactions from villagers, Trai said a decision issued by the provincial People's Committee on July 1, 2008 allowed Hieu Giang Co to lease 10ha of land for titanium exploitation.

A source familiar with the project said that after the first 10ha of leased land has been mined for titanium, and the site returned to its original conditions, another 10ha will be leased under an approved mining master plan, covering 138ha in Tham Khe village and parts of Hai Duong Commune.

Last year, however, 200 local villagers signed a petition, protesting the decision while earlier a letter of complaint had been sent to relevant authorities.

Van Tien Thuan, a Tham Khe villager, said: "Titanium can earn money, but it is our grandchildren who will suffer the environmental impact."

With titanium exploitation begun in 2008, vast swathes of half-a-century-old poplar forests in Trung Tan village in Quang Binh Province's Le Thuy District have been cut down, sending sand flying around and lowering groundwater levels, which has harmed the daily lives of local people.

Le Xuan Luan, a resident in Trung Tan village, said that the loss of poplar forests acting as a shield to protect the village has dried out hills and caused sand from the mines to fill up irrigation canals.

Nguyen Van Hieu, chairman of Sen Thuy Commune People's Committee, said that he feared future generations would bear the brunt of the consequences of current titanium mining, as forests have been lost and the environment degraded.

Though exploited land has been returned to the previous state and trees replanted, depleted underground water has killed most trees while the few remaining are stunted, a local official said.

He said while waiting for the trees to regrow into a forest, local residents would have to face sand storms, sandy rice fields and gardens.

Binh Dinh Province is now home to nine titanium ore mines, with a total reserve of 10 million tonnes.

The province has thus far licensed 23 businesses to exploit titanium on an area of 2,200ha, at a designed capacity of 701,000 tonnes a year.

Lax management of mining operations has led to businesses seeking short-term profits while ignoring environmental protection rules, which has polluted water sources, damaged farmland, and destroyed the landscape and ecosystem.


Titanium mining hurts Vietnamese farmers

By Truong Quang Nam

Thanhnien News

17 June 2011

Residents from a poor coastal commune in the north-central province of Quang Binh have complained of serious environmental consequences caused by titanium mining.

Thousands of people in Ngu Thuy Nam Commune in the province's Le Thuy District said that mining activities have devastated a small plot of communal farmland that they rely on for their livelihood.

In 2008, the Quang Binh Import Export Joint Stock Company began mining titanium on an 18-hectare plot in the farming community. The mine sits between Mu U and Dat Set - two small communal plots of farmland.

"We live on sweet potatoes, peanuts and other crops," a local resident said. "But our livelihoods are being threatened by this mine."

He said that few locals are able to eke out their living by fishing. They don't have the money to buy large boats for offshore fishing while the waters near the shoreline have been largely fished out.

Residents said that the sand dunes created by the titanium mine get blown into their land, degrading the soil quality. At the same time, the flow of the communities' groundwater has been disrupted by the mines.

They also blamed the mines for hurting their fish ponds. Representatives from the Quang Binh Import Export Joint Stock Company said that, every season, they pay the residents VND2,500 (US$0.12) per square meter to compensate them for their losses.

But the farmers say the meager compensation hasn't done anything to make up for the harm caused to them by the polluted water.

Residents also said that a stand of poplar trees planted decades ago has been cut down to expand the titanium mining operation, creating further erosion problems for the coastal communities.

According to the South Quang Binh Protective Forest Management Authority, four companies have been licensed to mine titanium in the area.

The authority said that the Quang Binh Import Export Joint Stock Company was permitted to mine 144 hectares; Hoang Long was granted 35.7 hectares, the Sen Hong with 25 hectares and Thanh Binh with 4.5 hectares.

Forest rangers said that most of the titanium mines sit on formerly protected coastal forests. Recently, local authorities changed their status to commercial forests to allow the mining firms to step in.


Titanium mining destroys Binh Thuan environment

By Tuoi Tre

Vietnamnet

9 June 2011

A large number of titanium mining firms in the southern central province of Binh Thuan are destroying the local environment, water supply and agricultural crops.

Containing large titanium reserves worth billions of dollars, Hoa Thang and Hong Phong, two communes in Bac Binh District, Binh Thuan province, have become the hot spots of the titanium mining industry.

But the land and water here are heavily tainted by the salinity that comes from the mining operations.

Vu Thi Yen, a resident in Hong Chinh Hamlet of Hoa Thang, said her well was infected with salinity and her orchid was all destroyed by the sea water used in the mining operations that is discharged directly into the ground.

At present, there are five titanium mining firms in Hong Chinh, all of which were able to obtain and renew their mining licenses even after they had been fined by the provincial
Department of Resources and Environment for serious violations of administrative and environmental regulations.

An official of the department said fining did not deter these companies from continuing their violations. And somehow they have never had their licenses revoked.

In Hiep Tri hamlet of Tan Hai commune, Binh Thuan's La Gi town, the Hai Tinh International Mineral Corporation is creating an environmental nightmare for the local people.

Since Hai Tinh began its mining in Hiep Tri in 2007, the hamlet has always been filled with dust and the local roads have been badly damaged by the firm's trucks.

Hai Tinh also uses sea water for their extraction of titanium ores, causing damage to dozens of hectares of rice crops.

Dang Quoc Tri, deputy head of the commune's people's committee, said most of the farmers in the area had to switch to other jobs as they could no longer do farming on their damaged rice fields.

In a conference held in April by the provincial people's committee on the sustainable mining and use of titanium in Binh Thuan, many scientists warned that the province need to pay attention to the environmental problems caused by the titanium mining industry.

Many others even suggested that the provincial government discontinue the mining operations.

Dang Van Hai, former head of the provincial people's committee, said the exploiting of titanium and selling it as crude material is greatly wasteful.

"It's extremely unreasonable that we pay a high cost to the environment and only get a small sum in return," he said.

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