Shipbuilder must pass environmental test before using copper slag

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A shipbuilder in the central province of Khanh Hoa won't be allowed to use 20,000 tons of recently imported copper slag until it completes an environmental protection plan, a local official said on Tuesday.

Hyundai-Vinashin would also be put under close watch by environmental agencies during its use of the toxic waste for ship repair, Nguyen Chien Thang, vice chairman of Khanh Hoa People's Committee, said.

Khanh Hoa authorities would have to report to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) with Prime Minister on the company's use of the material, according to notes from a meeting between the province Vietnam Environment Administration and Environmental Police Department.

In December, 2008 MNRE proposed that the Prime Minister order Khanh Hoa to suspend the shipbuilder from importing the waste, which is also known as nix grains, until it treated around over 800,000 tons it allowed to pile up at its factory over the past ten years.

However, Hyundai-Vinashin brought in 20,000 tons of slag late December before treating the current nix grains as ordered.

Asked why the province didn't stop the shipbuilder from importing the slag, Thang said current laws didn't ban the import of nix grains.

In recent years Hyundai-Vinashin had complied with environmental regulations and cut down on use of the slag in many ways, including by suspending its ship repair services, according to the provincial vice chairman.

But as the financial crisis had cut order numbers, it had to resume its ship repair business, which required the slag, he noted.

According to Thang, the shipbuilder planned to treat the remaining waste at a treatment factory applying locally-produced technology that broke ground in Khanh Hoa’s Ninh Thuy Commune in December.

The plant with the capacity of some 300,000 tons a year is scheduled for completion next year.

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