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Gold mine leaks toxic waste into central Vietnam river

Vietnam Express International 19 March 2018 | Dac Thanh   

Dozens of fish died after the river was polluted with mining tailings.

A tailings pond at a gold mine in central Vietnam breached its banks last Friday, releasing pollutants into a nearby river that contaminated the water and killed dozens of fish.

The Bong Mieu gold mine in Tam Lanh Town, Quang Nam Province, spans thousands of square meters, and lies next to the Que Phuong River.

The spill has prompted protests from local people.

“The river has been heavily polluted and the fish are all dying. Our lives are being affected right now, and we demand immediate action,” said one local.

The level of pollution is so severe that residents won't even let their cattle drink from the river.

Nguyen The Vinh, chairman of Tam Lanh's People’s Committee, said the pond originally belonged to Bong Mieu Gold Mining Limited Company. However, the company had closed and the site was taken over by 6666 Mineral Industry Joint Stock Company.

“Local authorities are working with the company and have told it to shut down until we solve the problem,” said Vinh.

The location of the breach was located on Sunday morning, and the company has sealed it with sand bags. 

Gold mining is not exactly a benign endeavor for the environment. According to Yu-Pin Lin, an academic editor for the U.S. National Library of Medicine, mining can lead to the generation of large quantities of heavy metal laden waste which is released in an uncontrolled manner, potentially causing widespread contamination of the ecosystem.

News of corporate entities causing severe pollution in Vietnam is nothing new. A petroleum company was  caught red-handed dumping untreated waste in a protected forest on the outskirts of Hanoi just over a week ago. Local authorities have since demanded those responsible to resolve the issue and remove the offending waste, said an official from Hanoi’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

In 2016, the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant spilled toxic waste that polluted more than 200km (125 miles) of coastline, devastating sea life and local economies dependent on fishing and tourism in central Vietnam. The spill was deemed one of Vietnam’s worst environmental disasters.