Legislators see canaries in the mines

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Lawmakers have lambasted the government for allowing ineffective mining operations to pollute local communities without bringing in funds to the state.

"In mineral-rich areas, residents are often poor ones and authorities generate low revenues. These people have been suffering from a paradox as they live among rich mineral resources with nothing to show for it," said representative Ha Son Nhin of Gia Lai Province at a National Assembly meeting on June 16.

"Mining activities have polluted the environment, damaged roads and destroyed arable land," he said as the assembly met to discuss a draft of the revised Minerals Law.

Assemblyman Nguyen Dinh Nha of Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province echoed Nhin's sentiments.

"Residents are terrified when minerals are discovered in their locality because they know they'll have to suffer pollution and relocation without any benefits," he said.

Nha and many other representatives said the draft law should have stricter regulations to increase the state revenues from mining activities and reduce pollution.

"Why has bustling minerals exploitation only contributed to just three percent of the country's annual gross domestic product (GDP) and offered as few as 300,000 jobs?" Nha said, adding that the country had huge "treasures" in its significant reserves of bauxite, titanium and granite.

Legislators said the new law should require mining companies to be responsible for reducing damages to the environment and supporting local residents.

"There should be detailed regulations on the responsibilities of mining firms. They should be told to construct infrastructure, reduce environmental damages and create jobs for affected residents," said Do Manh Hung of Thai Nguyen Province.

"Miners should also support local residents to find new jobs with equal or higher income than their previous jobs as well as accommodation in resettled places with equal or better conditions," he said.

Nha of Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province said licenses should only be issued for research activities and that actual mining should require a bidding process.

Lawmakers also said there should be regulations limiting the export of raw materials to avoid overexploitation and to increase revenues for the state and jobs for locals.

Deputy Tran Hong Viet of Hau Giang Province said the draft law should stipulate certain amount of raw minerals to be processed domestically.

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