Hungarian disaster revives Vietnam’s bauxite mine fears

An aerial view shows the broken dam responsible for the toxic flood near Devecser, Hungary, October 7. Pollution levels from the red sludge spill have subsided in the Danube and there is no risk of a biological or environmental catastrophe in the major European waterway, Hungarian officials said on October 8. There were still no estimates of the financial damage wrought by the sludge — waste from bauxite refining that has a strong caustic effect — over an area of 800-1,000 hectares (1,920-2,400 acres).

While the government wants to exploit the world’s largest reserves of the ore, others are not so keen

By Jonathan Manthorpe, Vancouver Sun
November 8, 2010

Protests in Vietnam against plans for six massive bauxite mines coupled with fears of Chinese economic imperialism have revived following last month’s toxic spill in Hungary that killed nine people and destroyed three villages.

The government of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has grudgingly agreed to review the bauxite mine and alumina production projects planned for the Central Highlands after receiving a much-publicized letter from 1,500 noted former politicians and intellectuals calling for new studies of the scheme.

“The disaster in Hungary is a serious warning to Vietnam,” said the letter, whose signatories included former vice-president Nguyen Thi Binh and former deputy minister of natural resources and environment Dang Hung Vo.

But although government spokesmen have said “It is necessary to listen to concerns of the public and intellectuals,” the tone and body language suggest there is no enthusiasm for halting the development of what, at 5.5 billion tonnes, are said to be some of the world’s largest reserves of the ore from which aluminum is produced. Continue reading