Quang Ninh authorities in northern Vietnam have decided to officially reprimand six officials responsible for the illegal construction of a tungsten factory with Chinese partners.
The US$10 million construction went ahead without the needed approval by provincial authorities last year. Its illegality was discovered by Quang Nghia Commune inspectors last November.
Four officials from the commune, including its chairwoman and her deputy, and two construction inspectors from Mong Cai, the capital town of the province that includes the commune, will be reprimanded for not discovering and reporting the violation sooner, according to the statement issued by Mong Cai administration.
The factory is built on a five hectare plot, 23 kilometers from the China border, 500 meters from a national highway and less than 200 meters from the local Pat Cap River.
It was registered under a Vietnamese company, whose director Hoang Trung Thong told news website VietNamNet that he was cooperating with a Chinese man named Chen and the factory is to produce and export 3,000 tons of tungsten a year to China.
No higher ranking officials were mentioned as responsible for the violation, although an investigation by Thanh Nien found that Mong Cai Party Secretary Nguyen Quang Diep last September had declared in a statement that the company would be allowed to build the factory.
The statement was followed by approvals from the Quang Ninh departments of Construction, Industry and Trade, Investment and Planning, and Natural Resources and Environment, in March this year, when construction was resumed with 32 Chinese workers who had come to Vietnam on tourist visas, the investigations found.
Quang Ninh provincial administration then ordered the project to stop as locals protested the pollution created by the factory.
Experts have expressed concerns that tungsten processing is lethally dangerous as related waste including arsenic can poison local water and cause cancer.
Professor Phung Viet Ngu, vice chairman of Vietnam Foundry and Metallurgy Science & Technology Association, said the factory is evidence that Chinese investors are bypassing Vietnam's ban of ore exports by processing Vietnamese ore or raw material from other countries. "They can leave us with the pollution," Ngu said.