Substandard mining operations in Nghe An Province have taken the toll on the environment of surrounding areas and their residents.
Residents of Lam Highlands Villages worried about potential landslides
The border commune of Tri Le in Que Phong District is home to four iron ore mines, operated by four separate licensed companies, which use 110 out of 800 hectares of forest land in the region. They are also located in close proximity to communities, the residents of which have dealing with the consequences of irresponsible mining practices.
Along the section of National Highway No. 48, which runs from Chau Thon Commune to Tri Le Commune, the harm caused by these operations is obvious. The lorries that frequently travel on this stretch of road spread dirt and dust and damage the highway.
Mining operations in border areas
Luong Van Cuong, a local man, said, “River water changes colour at sections running through mining areas. Previously, water was so clear that local people could swim in summer and used it to water their crops. Now we can't use it because it is too polluted."
Lo Xuan Thu, Chairman of Tri Le communal People’s Committee, said the fact that the mining companies are located upstream from residential areas has made the situation worse. Also, he said, the thousands of cubic metres of soil and stones are dug in the mountains compounds the risk of landslides in rainy seasons.
“Our hands are tied because they are licensed. All they have to do is continue to pay the annual fee of VND2 million (USD95.83),” Thu said.
Thu added illegal ore processing facilities have been sprouting up. They simply buy land from residents in the resettlement area of the Minh Chau Economic Zone and begin processing activities, he said.
Residents of Tri Le said all of their rice paddies have been contaminated with polluted water from the mines, and that they have not been able to yield good crops since 2009.
Lo Van Tuan, head of Lam Highland Villages said, “Yesterday it rained heavily, causing a great deal of soil and stones to pour into some of the rice paddies. We’ve called the owner of the company responsible, but they have done nothing.
In April 2011, the provincial Environment Police Office carried out an inspection over mining operations in Tri Le Commune. They found several violations by four mining firms in the locality.
Le Phong Joint Stock Company’s ore processing factory posed risks of landslides that would affect a number of roads. For the last two years the company have not contributed to a fund set up to deal with accidents or environmental impacts, nor have they paid environmental taxes on their discharge.
Three other mining firms were found with the same violations.
Lu Dinh Thi, Chairman of Que Phong district People’s Committee, said that the district government has held four meetings with the four mining companies and requested that they take corrective measures. "If the situation doesn't improve, we may recommend that the provincial government withdraw their licenses," he said.
Senior Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Viet Nhi, head of the provincial Environmental Police Office, said, after finishing the inspection, these companies were fined a total of 40 million (USD1,916).
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