Farmers worry about mining in Red River Delta

Despite serious public concerns on coal mining in the Red River Delta, Vietnam's largest mining company still wants to go ahead with mining huge coal reserves in the Red River Delta, one of the most populated agricultural areas in the country.

An open-cast mine in the northern province of Quang Ninh (Photo: SGGP)

The Vietnam National Coal and Minerals Corporation is impatient in  implementing the mining project because geologists estimate coal reserves in the Red River Delta are about 210 billion tons, spread out in the northern provinces of Thai Binh, Hung Yen and Nam Dinh.

The problem lies in the fact that the Red River Delta is the country’s second largest rice basket and rich paddy fields will be destroyed and many farmers rendered jobless once the mining starts.

Does Vietnam want coal or rice?

The coal mining company said it had applied for permission to launch a pilot mining project on three sites, Khai Chau in Hung Yen province, Kien Xuong and Tien Hai in Thai Binh province. The Prime Minister is expected to review the project during the third quarter of this year.

According to Ngo Xuan Chien, deputy chairman of the district People’s Committee, although the mining company has not yet implemented the project, residents in district Tien Hai are very worried about compensation, when authorities will reclaim their farmland for the project and farmers in Hung Yen fret that they will be rendered idle when their paddy fields are reclaimed.

However, agencies in the province have a different viewpoint. Pham Van Nam, head of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Thai Binh province is concerned that most residents here only know farming skills and are unskilled to take up any other jobs. Subsequently, any change will lead to widespread depression.

On the contrary, the Department of Industry and Trade is waiting to implement the project. Nguyen Hanh Phuc, chairman of People’s Committee of Thai Binh province hopes the project will help develop  the province, stating that the province GDP is approximately VND1 trillion but it spends VND2.5 trillion. Moreover, 1.1 million tons of rice is produced here and around 500,000 tons is consumed.

Prof. Nguyen Khac Vinh, chairman of the Vietnam Geology Federation, said the company must consider the mining methodologies so that exploitation does not take over farmlands. The company has promised that the project will not disrupt farming activities as it will use a technology that gasifies the coal underground and minimizes environmental impact, unlike open-cast mines in the northern province of Quang Ninh.

Dr. Nguyen Tri Ngoc, chief of the Department of Crop Production (DCP) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is cautious about mining projects as there is high risk of land subsiding which will  affect thousands of residents in the delta.

Prof. Tran Van Tri from the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology said that people needed to study the geography of the region much more carefully to avoid environmental pollution and cause food security problems. Since mining is all conducted underground, it will certainly have an impact on the underground water reserves and the rising gas will make the fields dry.

Although energy security is essential and vital for the country’s growth, the government should also lay as much emphasis on food security.

Related article:

Coal project on Red River delta gets environment criticism

By Phuc Hau - Translated by Uyen Phuong

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