On December 6 and 7, 2019, the Center for Development and Integration organized a dialogue between local governments, enterprises and community people in Mau Due commune (Yen Minh district) and Minh Son commune (Bac Me district) on local mining. This activity was held in collaboration with the Union of Science and Technology Associations of Ha Giang Province. The dialogs aim to generate a platform for stakeholders to share about the situation of mining activities in the communes, how these activities implementation complies with the environmental protection law, disclosure and transparency of revenue from mining, allocation/usage of environment protection tax and how local people rights in the two communes are ensured in the duration of 2018-2019.
On the situation of mineral mining in Ha Giang province in general and in the three districts of Bac Me, Yen Minh and Vi Xuyen in particular, it is reported that, there are 63/69 projects that have an environmental improvement plans have been approved with a total deposit of VND 142,460 billion; 6/69 projects do not have an environment protection plan but just a commitment to environment protection or a report on environmental Impact Assessment. Till July 15, 2019, mineral mining projects in the province have signed an environmen improvement deposit of VND 28.30 out of total 142.46 billion (approximately 20%).
Dialogue in Mau Due and Minh Sonshows that mining in these two communes has caused a number of consequences in environment and livelihoods for the local. In terms of environment, mining and metallurgy is blamed for air, water and noise pollution. The chemicals released into the environment by mining companies which have not been thoroughly treated, causing respiratory illnesses. Smoke and dust from the mining area and along the mining routes obscure transportation view, cause traffic jams. That is dangerous for local people who drives and walk in the road especially the children. Local main roads are therefore quickly degraded after a short time of use.
According to people in Ngoc Tri village, Minh Son commune, Bac Me district, the water sources here are polluted that decrease fish schools by breeding less. The sewage overflows to the residential area from the waste tank and invades in the local water source when it rains. People who live near the factory do not know where it is polluted or not and still get water for usage.
Since 2018, people in Minh Son commune have made many recommendations to enterprises with an expectation that those issues in pollution will be dealt with such as proposal to regular watering to treat dust and smoke in roads, test water sources and have final testment results accessed to the people. However, what has been done by enterprises so far is provision of canvas for the households who live along the roads to lessen the dust and smoke.
Water sources in mining areas are all polluted. Photo: Cao Hong Ky
In Khoi Ke village, Minh Son commune, Bac Me district, enterprises have prioritized local workers in recruitment, offered them standard salary according to the Labor Law, paied them overtime work, renumerated them with standard public holidays and the bonused one month salary per year, inlcuded health insurance, social insurance, unemployment insurance, had compensation for labor accidents and equipped 2 sets of working clothes annually for employees. However, workers’ reflection on this issue is that the basic salary is low and there is no roadmap for wage increase. For some, they still receive the basic salary after four years of working. What noted is that among of the petitions that have been sent to the authorities and enterprises in last years dialogues, many of them have not been implemented so far.
In Mau Due Commune, Yen Minh District, pollution of water sources, air, noise has significantly affected the lives and livelihoods of local people. After a while the metallurgy company went into operation, their piles of coal slag of meters high prevented surrounding areas from planting trees and crops (rice). The stream flowing through the factory’s territory is also accreted, depleted and polluted. Respose to this issue in the dialog, the company representative said that they have hired independent experts to make an assessment on the environmental impact and to dredge the stream every year. However, the assessment results have never been made public to local people.
Coal slag from metallurgy company prevented surrounding areas from planting trees and crops. Photo: Cao Hong Ky
Dialogue in 2 communes where mining enterprises in Ha Giang showed that it is necessary to have a detailed assessment of the environmental impacts in mining so that needed measures are considered to minimize and remedy lives and livelihoods for local people. Local people said that the local governments need to strengthen their supervisory role in mining and monitor the annual output of enterprises. As for the local people, they need to collect recommendations in writting and send to the local governments so that local governments have an overview on the situation and have a plan to coordinate with enterprises in implementation of environmental protection regulations and to protect local people’s rights fully and satisfactorily instead of just receiving promises from enterprises.