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The impacts of mineral exploitation on the environment and people in Thai Nguyen

Case study: Khanh Hoa coal mine, Thai Nguyen, Viet Nam

Introduction

Phuc Ha is a small commune in Thai Nguyen city, Vietnam with an area of 6,71 km². The population of man is approximately 4000 in 2013 with the density of 596 people/km2. The commune has been detached from Dong Hy District and merged into Thai Nguyen’s area since 1985. Northwardly, Phuc Ha borders Tan Long Ward, Quan Trieu Ward, Quyet Thang Commune, Phuc Xuan – Thai Nguyen city and An Khanh Commune pertaining to Dai Tu District.

The commune has a coal mine called Khanh Hoa, which creates employment for numerous of local people. However, due to uncontrolled and unreasonable explotation, it has caused polution affecting people’s health and their daily routine. In addition, many of the rice fields also have to bear the consequence turning into garbage dumps.

There is a coal conveyor belt of 2,75 km running accross Phuc Ha from Khanh Hoa coal mine to Cao Ngan thermal power plant.


Properties of Khanh Hoa coal mine

Khanh Hoa coal mine is a part of the mineral concentration in Ba Son – Quan Trieu of Phuc Ha Commune – Thai Nguyen City and in Son Cam Commune of Phu Luong District, An Khanh Commune of Dai Tu District, Thai Nguyen Province. The total area of the coal mine is 3,28 km2 with the exploitation capability of 400.000 tons/year.

People are planning to increase the exploitation capability of the coal mine from 400.000 tons a year to roughly 600.000 tonas a year. As initial examination, the concentration of the coal mine is 59,3 million tons. The amount of raw mineral is  expected to reach 5,5-6 million cubic metres per year. Accordingly, the amount of waste dirt after the exploitation process will be at 109.199.000 m3.

The coal mine is expected to be availabe for extraction with 19 years starting from 2012 to 2029.


The impacts of mineral exploitation to environment, nature and people in Thai Nguyen Province

Thai Nguyen, Vietnam is known to be a province with high concentration of minerals including coal, metals and non-ferrous metals. The development of metallurgy works brings not only an economic boost to the province but it also helps to make Thai Nguyen one of the mineral exploitation hubs in Vietnam. However, besides the potentials of mineral resourses, the method used and the current facilities for exploitation are still substandard which has caused negative impacts on the environment and people’s lives surrounding the site. One of the typical examples of this is the case of Khanh Hoa coal mine.

According to Phuc Ha people, Thai Nguyen City, the exploitation operations started from 1967 and immediately, it turned the whole place into a noisy and polluted complex. Some of the most outstanding problems are the pollution of air, water resourse in connection with soil erosion and soil degradation...

Waste soil accumulated right behind the population area

Waste soil accumulated right behind the population area

Since the commencement of the company, pollution has always been the concern of the people. The surrounding environment is overwhelmed with dark clouds of smoke from blasting and other exploitation activities.

People who reside close to the area of the coal mine have problems with not only purified drinking water but also the air they breath in every day. Everything inside and outside the house is covered with dirt and dust.

The main road of Phuc Ha commune, Thai Nguyen city

The main road of Phuc Ha commune, Thai Nguyen city

Besides pollution, the waste water and mud from the coal mine has a noticeable influence on the daily routine of people in Phuc Ha. The bigger the scale of the mining site, the more transport vehicles running across causing roads to degrade. At present, the sewage flowing from the mining site is dyed black with waste water which then flows to the rice fields causing the diseases for the crops.

Waste dump areas during rainy season

Waste dump areas during rainy season

More seriously, the waste dump areas are a great threat to the grassroot residing in Phuc Ha, especially, in rainy season, erosion can occur at any given moment causing disastrous consequences like the case of Phan Me coal mine in Phu Luong District, Thai nguyen in 2011.

 Phuc Ha’s Primary School stand right at the foot of the waste pile

Phuc Ha’s Primary School stand right at the foot of the waste pile

 

Upon initial examination, the waste dump areas in the west of the mine is piled up in 3 layers with the highest point of 150 metres and on the south side of the mine, the pile contains 6 layers peaking at 160 metres. There are about 228 households living near the exploitation site. The administration offices, medical station and the post office of the commune are very close to the piles of waste soil which poses threat to them.

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