A look back on the bauxite mining project: big big loss

The Tan Rai factory may lose 3 billion VND (approximately 21.2 million US$) within the first three years,  while the Nhan Co one may suffer from a huge loss of 140 million US$ in a six-year period, scientists said.

The Dat Viet [Vietnamese Land] newspaper recently has reported on a workshop in Hanoi on March 28, where scientists expressed their concern over the bauxite mining project which they believed to be “at risk”. The risk would be heightened, should there be no timely remedies to settle the existing problems, they highlighted.

Dr. Nguyen Thanh Son, former board director of a coal-mining project in the Hong river delta, even said that the  Vietnam National Coal – Mineral Industries Group (TKV), the major local investor of the bauxite mining project, had fallen into a trap set up by their Chinese partner, who offered a bid they knew to be too low.

In fact, after the low bid had been accepted by TKV, the Chinese bidder began to raise the price they charged.

As the project sites are closed to the public, very few photos of them have been published.

As the project sites are closed to the public, very few photos of them have been published.

Notably, Mr. Nguyen Van Ban, a former official at the TKV, pointed out that the technologies that China provided were tremendously energy-consuming, which cost much more water, coal, and alkali than advanced technologies from other countries, and this caused a loss of more than 40 million US$ per year for TKV.

The bauxite mining project in Tay Nguyen (Central Highland of Vietnam), implemented by Chinese mining entrepreneurs, has been highly controversial since its information was leaked to the media in early 2009. While the Vietnamese government insisted that it was “a grand policy by the Party and the state” and tried to convince the people of a successful business project between Vietnamese companies and their Chinese partners, very few believed in its good will and management capacity.

As from late 2008, about 3000 Vietnamese-speaking intellectuals and pundits across the world made the first petition urging a review of the whole project. In early 2009, Vo Nguyen Giap – the legendary general to many Vietnamese – even wrote a series of three letters to Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng, the Politburo, National Assembly and Government. The degree of his alerts increased over time: from requesting for a review of the project, to advising not to conduct the project, to finally suggesting that the entire project, including any test phases, be canceled.

Though the opponents outnumber the supporters, the final decision about the project was not reversed.

The project has been implemented in Tan Rai and Nhan Co, and during the recent six years, warnings about its losses were still heard: 20 per cent of the total revenues for 2013 and 21 per cent for 2014.

Some of the dissidents intellectuals involved in the anti-bauxite mining movement were imprisoned, including Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, founder of the Vietnam Path Movement, who is still in jail serving a 16-year sentence of imprisonment, and legal scholars Le Cong Dinh (currently under house arrest) and Cu Huy Ha Vu (in exile in the US).