MAC: Mines and Communities

Vietnamese revolutionary leader speaks out on mining

Published by MAC on 2009-01-19

Just over a week ago, Bougainville's new president - and leader of its former Revolutionary Army - appeared to condemn the re-opening of Rio Tinto's long moth-balled Panguna copper-gold mine. See:

Now, another retired revolutionary leader has raised strong doubts about his own country's plans to embark on bauxite mining.

Meanwhile, "left wing" President Correa of Ecuador takes his own country along a parlous and bloody path into the hands of foreign mining outfits. See:

Vietnam's top war hero takes anti-mining stance

International Herald Tribune

15th January 2008

HANOI, Vietnam: Vietnam's revered revolutionary military leader has stepped into a debate over bauxite mining to cite its potential to harm the environment, highlighting tensions between conservation and economic development in the fast-growing country.

The 97-year-old Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the mastermind behind the defeat of the French colonialists and then the Americans, has called on the government to reconsider plans to expand bauxite mining in Vietnam's Central Highlands.

He expressed his concerns in a letter to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, which was published in the online newspaper VietnamNet on Wednesday. Giap's office confirmed Thursday that he had sent a letter to Dung on Jan. 5 about the mining of bauxite, a key ingredient in aluminum.

Previous environmental studies, Giap wrote, have shown that bauxite mining could have a "very serious and long-term harmful impact on the environment that could not be remedied."

The Central Highlands are home to many of Vietnam's ethnic minority groups, who farm in the region.

The government has given licenses to state-owned Vietnam Coal and Minerals Corp., to set up bauxite projects in Lam Dong province and neighboring Dak Nong province, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

The government's long-term plans call for opening four more bauxite operations in the region.
Before it proceeds with those plans, Giap said, the government should conduct further environmental studies.

Supporters of the mining plans say they will boost the region's economy and that the operations will use modern technology to minimize the environmental impact.
"The projects would cover only barren hills or coffee plantations which produce low yield," said Bien Van Minh, director of the Industry and Trade Department in Dak Nong. "They would help lift people out of poverty."

Calls to the Vietnam coal company were not returned.

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