Mining lays waste to central region farmlands

VietNamNet Bridge – The many mineral exploitation projects in the central region of Viet Nam, either those legally licensed or unauthorised ones, have made a tangible impact on farmlands, particularly in the central provinces of Binh Dinh and Quang Nam.

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Farmland in Phuoc Thanh Commune, central Binh Dinh Province has been too severely eroded to be of use.

For example, the stone mining at Hon Cha Mountain in Phuoc Thanh Commune of Binh Dinh Province, operated by Hoan Cau Granite Co Ltd, has virtually ruined nearby vegetation. 

Excavators operating around the clock have laid waste to the sides of the mountain. 

After heavy rainfall, water flows carry loose soil and sand downhill to the fields below, burying hectares of crops under thick mud.

Nguyen Van Thanh, a farmer from Phuoc Thanh Commune, said his five sao farm (1 sao = 250sq.m) suffered from soil erosion. 

“Four sao have been recovered, and the Hoan Cau Company provided support in terms of fertiliser, however, the output still only reached half of what it used to be,” Thanh said.

The remaining farmland was covered with so much sand that there was nothing else to be done, so the company decided to pay compensation of VND1.5 million (US$66) for each crop season. “But that’s just a temporary solution. I want the company to clear the debris so I can resume normal production,” he added.

Le Van Dong, chairman of the Phuoc Thanh Commune People’s Committee, said the compensation for the 2016-17 winter-spring crop season was late, making farmers angry. Dong said authorities would force the company to proceed with reclamation activities, returning arable land to the farmers.

Dong also said the company has not performed its obligations in designing the clarifier (settling tank to remove solids deposited by sedimentation) and water canals. 

“The company is all promises,” he complained.

Huynh Thanh Phuong from the Department of Natural Resources of Tuy Phuoc District said authorities have met the company managers a few times, asking them to build concrete water canals to replace the ditches they are currently using and avoid erosion in anticipation of the coming rain season.

“Also, the compensation must be stopped soon in favour of real measures that get farmland back to the farmers,” Phuong added.

Dust that won’t settle

Cat Trinh Commune authorities (Phu Cat District, Binh Dinh Province) intended to improve the quality of soil in their jurisdiction, as well as to conduct land aggregation to aid in the modernisation of local agriculture. 

Hung Thien Long Co Ltd was entrusted with this task.

However, aside from rehabilitating the fields, the company also brought in a convoy of excavators and trucks to exploit the clay below the fields to sell for handsome profits, leaving the farmers to suffer the consequences.

According to the contract, the company is supposed to renovate a total farmland of nearly 45,000sq.m (40,550cu.m of soil in total) in one year, from 2016 October to 2017 October. 

The specific tasks to be carried out include leveling, building intra-field roads as well as an irrigation system for better productivity. 

The company is allowed to make profits on "excess" soil from these land preparation operations.

Nong thon ngay nay (Countryside Today) reports that the company’s trucks start their noisy operation at 3am, creating a permanent dust cloud, degrading the roads. 

"Residents have protested numerous times by blocking the trucks’ path, and watering the roads to prevent dust,” said Nguyen Thi Lan, 69, of Phu Nhon Village.

The truck drivers say the clay will be sold to a brick plant in another district, and the rest will be sold to orchards or other construction projects in the area.

Dinh Nhat Thien Long, director of Hung Thien Long Company, denied the allegations, claiming the soil is used solely in the Phu Cat District, not sold outside.

Cat Trinh Commune authorities confirmed that the excess soil will be used to elevate the ground of the local stadium and future housing, saying the company can sell the excess to orchard owners who want to elevate their land and use the revenues for farmland renovation operations.

According to the commune’s inspections in 2016, the company’s trucks did affect local residents. 

However, commune authorities did not require the company to register the amount of excess soil, violating the Law on Minerals. 

The farmland renovation scheme, was not preceded by an environmental assessment, which violates the Law on Environment Protection.

Last month, local authorities finally ordered the company to register the excess soil amount for approval by Binh Dinh Province authorities. 

An environmental assessment was also made obligatory. 

The transportation of "excess" soil will only be resumed after these documents have been obtained.

Huynh Quanh Vinh, deputy head of the Binh Dinh Province’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said the department has not received any document from the company. 

“Overexploitation of the clay will deprive the land of its ability to hold water. The quality of the land will suffer, and so will the farmers. We will conduct a field trip to assess the situation in the area,” Vinh added.

Same old issue

In Quang Nam Province – rich with gold, sand and coal – numerous regulations have been issued to protect these resources, but illegal operations still find ways to continue, posing risks to local lives and environment.

Le Van Hong, 70, of Dien Ban Town in the province, said sand mining projects are to be found all over the Thu Bon River banks, which he said is most responsible for causing erosion, even more than flooding.

According to Vo Van Minh, 74, exploitation is legal during the day, but the ships also operate illegally after dark. “People’s farmlands are shrinking,” Minh said.

Tran Tinh, Dien Trung Commune chairman, said last year that erosion took place along 300m of river banks, and nearly 2ha of land had been lost to water. 

“We know that they still covertly conduct exploitation at nights, and we don’t have the vehicles to check up on their ships. Even if we could catch them red-handed, they can always produce some sort of likely fabricated legal documents that we have no way to verify,” Tinh said.

Responding to people’s complaints, Nguyen Vien, head of the Quang Nam provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment, has ordered Dien Ban Town to investigate the illegal exploitation.

In a report submitted to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Quang Nam Province said scattered distribution of mineral resources has made it difficult to manage. 

The province also admitted some commune authorities had not done a satisfactory job of protecting natural resources.

In 2016, 223 inspections were conducted in Quang Nam Province: 340 combustion engines, 26 suction parts, 10 generators, 362 sheds were destroyed, thousands of workers were banished from illegal mining areas. 

Fines worth VND3.9 billion ($172,000) were issued in 166 violations. 


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