Authorities in the south central province of Ninh Thuan have suspended a Vietnamese titanium mining company for causing environmental and health problems that have led to strong objections from the public over the past two years.
The suspension was announced on Monday by the provincial People’s Committee at a press conference in relation to the opposition of local residents to environmental issues caused by the miner, Quang Thuan One-Member Co Ltd. These problems include serious reduction of underground water sources and dust and sand pollution harmful to the health of local residents.
Many wells have been dried as the company excessively tapped underground water to use in ore processing, seriously affecting agricultural production and the daily lives of locals.
Meanwhile, many people have suffered from health problems, including respiratory tract inflammation and eye disease, triggered by dust and sand released in the air from the company’s mining activities.
Therefore, many objections from the public have been voiced, with the latest breaking out on March 20 when about 1,000 people from Son Hai 1 and Son Hai 2 hamlets in Thuan Nam District gathered to protest the firm. At yesterday’s press briefing, Vo Dai, deputy chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, said the operation of the company should be suspended.
Dai also asked concerned agencies to coordinate with the company to resolve the issues it has caused, keep order and security in the area, and help stabilize the lives of local dwellers.
The official explained that in August 2012, the provincial People’s Committee licensed Quang Thuan to mine titanium-zircon ore in an area of 83.7 hectares in the two hamlets.
The authorities once ordered the company to halt operations in late 2012 following local residents’ complaints about environmental and health problems caused by Quang Thuan and the firm’s failure to obtain a license for the use of underground water and to comply with local regulations on land leasing.
At that time, the authorities demanded the company submit an environmental impact assessment and install a clean water supply for locals.
In early 2013, they allowed Quang Thuan to resume its mining operations in an area of only 19.32 hectares in the hamlets, provided that the company promised not to cause environmental pollution.
However, on March 20, when the company prepared to resume its operations, locals gathered in protest as it has yet to build the required clean water supply, deputy chairman Dai said.
During the protest, many extremists set fire to a company factory and destroyed much of its machinery and equipment, officials said, adding that those elements even resisted law enforcement officers.
Following the serious reactions from the public, officials have decided to suspend Quang Thuan and asked local police to investigate and punish the extremists. According to Colonel Pham Huyen Ngoc, deputy director of the provincial police, six people have been charged with resisting on-duty law enforcers so far. Police are also looking into the destruction of Quang Thuan’s property to punish those involved, Ngoc said.