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Time for country's mining industry to dig out the truth

Update: December, 26/2012 - 09:17

The deputy director of the Consultancy on Development Institute, Pham Quang Tu, spoke to the newspaper Tien Phong (Vanguard) about the need for greater transparency in the mining industry.

Why do we need greater transparency in the use of mineral resources?

The rapid exploitation and inefficient use of raw materials have led to the risk of depletion and loss of our natural resources, with many consequences for the environment and for society. Mining is also seen as one of the sectors in Viet Nam with the highest risk for corruption. There are many reasons for such problems, but our research and the results of the national anti-corruption dialogue in 2011 suggested the need to establish an alliance with an aim to address the problems.

Why weren't these problems addressed earlier?

There are many reasons, from the lack of a detailed legal framework to non-regular inspection and supervision. One of the most important reasons is the lack of co-ordination between different sectors, especially the lack of participation and supervision from civil society organisations, the mass media and local communities. Civil society organisations serve to oversee and criticise while the mass media delivers information. But locals are among those most affected by mining operations. They can observe and report information about the negative effects of mining to the authorities. But there is no strong, detailed legal framework to encourage the participation and co-operation of the public.

How would a transparency alliance work?

We believe an alliance would encourage all sectors in society to co-operate so that, together with the Government, they can jointly resolve some of these issues related to mining. What we need immediately is orientation and a co-operative framework between the relevant sectors.

Are there similar models elsewhere in the world?

A number of initiatives have been undertaken to better manage mining operations, include Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Publish What You Pay (PWYP), the Green Mining Initiative and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

Which model do you think would be suitable for Viet Nam?

Each of the above initiatives has its advantages, and I think all of them could be applied in Viet Nam. However, if I had to choose one, I would take EITI since it binds the responsibilities between the State, enterprises and civil society more strongly. As a consequence, the management and use of mineral resources would be more effective. In fact, this initiative has been supported and implemented in a number of countries. It was initiated by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2002 at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. So far, there have been 37 countries voluntarily joining EITI.

Has any institution in Viet Nam giving any attention to EITI?

Relevant sectors in Viet Nam, especially the Ministry of Trade and Industry, have known about the initiative since 2009. In 2010, the ministry held a conference to learn more about it. At the anti-corruption dialogue and consultative group meeting last year, donors recommended Viet Nam consider joining EITI.

Would joining EITI help in the battle against corruption and in reducing the waste of natural resources?

Fighting corruption is one of the most urgent goals in all political, economic and social sectors in Viet Nam. No one can deny this. The problem is how to turn intention into real action? Each sector needs to have its own action plan. According to our research, joining EITI would be one of the most effective measures to reduce corruption in the mining industry.

The participation of different sectors in the management and use of resources will require co-ordination and consensus with the target of sustainable development of mineral resources. We need to urgently find solutions, both in policy and reality, to reduce negative effects on the environment and society. That's why we need to build a transparency alliance. — VNS

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