Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI – The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) yesterday confirmed it did not grant Hưng Nghiệp Formosa Hà Tĩnh Steel Corporation permission for importing “bauxite mud” from China.
Earlier, on September 15, authorities of the central province of Hà Tĩnh detected 160 tonnes of mud being transported in a vessel departing from China’s Dalian Port to the province’s Sơn Dương Port in Vũng Áng Economic Zone, where the headquarters of Hưng Nghiệp Formosa Hà Tĩnh Steel Corporation, also called Formosa, are located.
After initial checks, the authorities determined that the mud, together with other equipment and machine components in the vessels, had the necessary documents for customs clearance and permissions to import by responsible authorities. The item was not red mud, a toxic byproduct of the industrial process that refines bauxite into alumina, which potentially causes severe environmental pollution.
According to Nguyễn Xuân Minh, deputy head of the Vũng Áng Port Custom Branch, the imported mud is heat-resistant mud, a tax-exempt product permitted for import by the MoIT.
“In the meantime, we cannot say the company imports prohibited substances. But while conducting further inspection, if we find that the mud contains toxic substances, the company would have to bear responsibility,” he said.
Speaking to the media about the goods, a representative of Formosa said the company was willing to cooperate with the authorities to provide all necessary documents to prove its legality.
According to the representative, although the name of the material written in the import documents is “mud”, it was actually a kind of “powder” used in construction.
There was probably mistranslation from Chinese to English and then to Vietnamese, the representative said, adding that it was not the first time the company imported this kind of product.
In a statement released yesterday, the MoIT said it had established a task force to cooperate with responsible authorities to collect samples of the product to precisely determine its type and nature to know if it was toxic or not.
“We will provide the media with more updates once they are available,” the ministry said.
Taiwanese-owned Formosa was responsible for one of the biggest environmental disasters in Việt Nam in recent years when its untreated toxic waste water was discharged into the sea, killing tonnes of fish and marine creatures across four central provinces in April. The company admitted responsibility and paid US$500 million as compensation for the damage. – VNS