|The Tan Rai Alumina Plant in the Central Highlands Province of Lam Dong. — VNA/VNS Ngoc Ha
HA NOI (VNS)— Investing in two pilot bauxite projects in the Central Highlands is the right move for Viet Nam and will pave the way for the country's aluminium industry to take off, according to Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang.
"The decision to go for these two projects was made after careful consideration of the Party, State, National Assembly and Government," assured Hoang, as he sat down for an interview with Viet Nam Television aired on Sunday.
He was addressing concerns from some economic and industry experts who had suggested these projects should be halted because of low economic efficiency.
The two projects are based in Lam Dong Province's Tan Rai District and Dak Nong's Nhan Co District. The construction of the Tan Rai plant was completed last December and has already manufactured the first batch of alumina products, which meet quality standards. The Nhan Co plant is still under the construction and will become operational in the first half of 2014.
Regarding concerns about why these two plants lagged behind the initial schedule, Hoang explained it was because of complications emerging from installing the sophisticated technologies which had never been used in Viet Nam previously. In addition, there were difficulties inherent in the Central Highlands region itself.
"The construction of the storage for red mud (bauxite residue after alumina has been extracted) has had to be extended because the reality has prompted us to review the technical design and implement additional solutions to ensure safety," he said, saying it was the main reason for all the delay.
"Our stance is that we'd rather buy some time to ensure maximum safety," Hoang said. "However, I have to admit that another reason for that was our lack of management experience for this type of project."
The minister went on to give assurances about the economic efficiency of the plants. The price of alumina recently plunged to US$326.5 per tonne, 10 per cent lower than the price planned for in 2009.
"The efficiency of these projects should be evaluated from a long-term perspective. These projects are running at a pilot stage so I think we need more time to gather a more accurate assessment."
He said that although the alumina price was comparatively low now, the situation could easily change in the five or ten years. He declared that the two projects were not only economically important to the investors but to the socio-economic development of the region as a whole.
Hoang said that the environmental impacts of these projects had been taken into consideration with extreme caution.
Viet Nam is said to have 10 to 11 billion of tonnes of bauxite, mainly found in the Central Highlands. The country has to import 100 per cent of alumina for production. — VNS