Scientists, former officials sign petition on bauxite mines

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A group of scientists and intellectuals have signed a proposal asking the government to halt bauxite exploration projects in the Central Highlands to conduct further research and gather public opinion on the matter.

Former Vice President Nguyen Thi Binh and former Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Dang Hung Vo signed the petition.

Binh told Thanh Nien she maintained her stand that the bauxite exploration requires careful research and consideration.

Vo said the proposal called for a comprehensive review of the exploration by scientists, experts and social activists. All research findings need to be presented to legislators and the public for their opinion.

He said other large countries have stopped mining their natural resources and turned to other poor countries for raw materials.

"Vietnam is no longer a poor country and it's becoming a middle income country," Vo said. "We don't necessarily have to sell raw ore products."

Concerns have been raised about Vietnam's two bauxite mining and processing complexes in the Central Highlands since the recent toxic spill in Hungary. The red sludge was a byproduct of the refinement of bauxite into alumina.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has ordered state-owned mining group Vinacomin to review the designs for its toxic waste storage facilities.

Vinacomin reiterated its position that the projects are safe, but said it would take measures to minimize environmental impacts in the event of an accident.

In an interview with Thanh Nien this week, Nguyen Thanh Liem, a Vinacomin official, said the group considered moving future bauxite projects closer to the coast so that seawater could be used to neutralize the red mud.

The project in Lam Dong Province is expected to begin selling its products in April next year. The two projects have a combined annual output of 1.25 million tons and 2.4 million tons of the toxic red sludge will be produced every year, Liem said.

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