Illegal sand exploitation in central Vietnam leaves authorities powerless

Authorities are having trouble putting an end to the large amount of white sand being illicitly exploited in the central Vietnamese province of Thua Thien-Hue and transported out of the locality

Tipper trucks carry sand to the factory of Vietnam Transcend Minerals Company, located in the Hoa Khanh Industrial Park in the central city of Da Nang.

Thousands of metric tons of sand are being transported daily from the province to the Vietnam Transcend Minerals Company factory in the Hoa Khanh Industrial Park in neighboring Da Nang City.

Though local authorities have prohibited the actions, the exploitation continues to persist.

According to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters’ observation, a convoy of 10 dump trucks passed through the Hai Van Tunnel before arriving in Da Nang around 4:00 am on Tuesday, all of which were filled with sand and covered with mattresses.

The journalists went undercover as buyers in need of large amounts of sand and approached a man named Bi, said to be a senior member in the secret operation.

Bi invited the undercover reporters to a sand mine in Phong Dien District, Thua Thien-Hue, where the exploitation was being carried out in broad daylight.

After being mined, the sand was meant to be transported to an assembly yard spanning thousands of hectares in Tu Ha Ward, Huong Tra Town, safeguarded around the clock by high walls and large iron gates.

After processing at the assembly yard, the sand is loaded onto large dump trucks and carried to its final destination in Da Nang before 5:00 am every day.

In order to verify the legitimacy of the assembly yard, the journalists asked for a meeting with the People’s Committee in Tu Ha Ward, though leaders of the administration were unable to see the correspondents, saying they were “busy with other meetings.”    

Meanwhile, Tran Hung Long, head of the Office of Natural Resources and Environment in Huong Tra Town, confirmed that the assembly area is not included in local urban planning documents.

The Tuoi Tre pressmen were later contacted by Le Minh Hai, who claimed to be the owner of the assembly yard and the sand mine.

Hai admitted that the exploitation was illicit and that he had no legitimate permit to operate the sand mine.

“The paperwork is being completed by authorities. I’m just working ahead of the process,” the man added.

According to Bi, the sand is sold to Vietnam Transcend in Da Nang at an average of 1,000 metric tons per day.

Authorities in Thua Thien-Hue do not allow the material to be transported out of the province, Bi stated, adding that all dump trucks only operate around midnight.

Speaking with Tuoi Tre, chairman of the People’s Committee in Phong Dien District Trinh Duc Hung confirmed that no business was allowed to exploit white sand for sale in the locality.

“We will carry out an investigation to verify the reports provided by the journalists,” Hung promised.

According to Phan Van Thong, director of the Thua Thien-Hue Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the material is also prohibited from export to foreign countries.

The only exception to the prohibition applies to Viet Phuong Corporation, which requested last September a permit to export 200 metric tons of the sand to Italy to test the market, Thong said.

The journalists attempted to contact Vietnam Transcend several times, but the company leaders refused meeting requests.

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