Dec 30 2009

Vietnam’s Mega Bauxite Mine: A Social and Ecological Disaster

Al Jazeera has obtained the first footage of a massive bauxite mining project in central Vietnam which has created one of the biggest civil protest movements the country has ever seen. Vietnamese media have been banned from reporting on the proposed mine, which critics say will create major environmental damage, for little economic benefit.

Vietnam holds the third largest bauxite reserves worldwide and is increasingly subject to China’s growing desire for natural resources through its controlling diplomatic relationship with Vietnam. The $460 million project, which has already begun, is being carried out by Chinalco, a chinese aluminium company who own 10% shares in Rio Tinto, and Vinacomin, the Vietnamese partner.

The massive open-cast mine is located in the Tây Nguyên region, the central highland area known as the breadbasket of Vietnam, as it is the heart of coffee, rubber and tea farming, and home to some very isolated indigenous groups. The pollution and destruction from mining has potential to ruin the livelihood of the entire region, destroying rich farmland and biodiversity. The region is also an important watershed for the Mekong river, and other Southern Vietnamese rivers, which could become polluted by red mud and reduced in volume as the water-holding properties of bauxite are removed and vast quantities of water used for extraction and processing of the bauxite.

Vietnamese activists are referring to the social, economic and ecological destruction caused by bauxite mines in Orissa, India to highlight the dangers of allowing this project.

See the Save Tây Nguyên campaign for more details.