Coal miner blocked northern stream for years: police

December 19, 2009

A coal exploiter in northern Quang Ninh Province has almost erased a valley and a stream in more than a decade but received scant penalties, a Ministry of Public Security official said Thursday.

Commander Nguyen Quoc Trung of the ministry’s Environment Police Department said his unit has enough evidence that the PT. Vietmindo Energitama (PTVE) Company at Uong Thuong coal mine in Uong Bi District of the province has “severely violated the Environment Protection Law.”

Mining work by the company over the past 12 years has produced many million tons of rock and soil that filled up the valley which the Uong Thuong Stream flows through, blocking the water flow to form a contaminated pond of around 2,000 square meters area and narrowed about 700 meters of the stream, the police found in an inspection conducted last month along with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

Uong Thuong sustains the local Lan Thap water plant and is the main source of water for residents in Mieu Than village, Uong Bi District.

Managers at the water plant said the inflow had been severely contaminated and the plant had to shut down temporarily on rainy days, when mud from coal mines made the water too dirty to be treated.

Some residents said their fish had died after they pumped water from the stream into their fish ponds, local newswire Dan Tri reported.

The inspection also found that the Indonesian-owned firm had neither earmarked funds to restore the environment nor evaluated the impacts of its activities. It had also failed to manage toxic waste as required by Vietnamese law.

The company had been inspected 15 times since 2005 and only fined twice for a total VND18 million (US$973), Trung said.

He said the act of dumping soil to block the stream flow had never been found before. His unit is identifying the responsibilities of people involved and will impose further penalties, Trung said.

PTVE in 1991 signed a contract with the local Uong Bi Coal Company for a 30-year project to jointly exploit, process and export coal. PTVE would raise $27 million in capital, provide the mining technology and find foreign buyers while Uong Bi Company would provide the raw material and liaise with the authorities.

The mining work started in 1997 on 1,300 hectares, the Tien Phong newspaper said Friday.

Reported by Thai Son

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