|Đức Long Company’s dredging ships in Phú Quốc, Kiên Giang Province. More than 600,000 cubic metres of sand were exploited by the ships and exported to Singapore in January and February, 2017. — Photo tuoitre.vn|
HÀ NỘI — Quite a few Vietnamese companies are taking advantage of sand dredging privileges authorised by the Government to rake in huge illegal profits, according to an expose by the Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper.
The investigative series, entitled “Tracing Vietnamese sand drain to Singapore”, reported that at the end of 2009, the Vietnamese Government banned sand exports but in 2013 the regulation was loosened, allowing a list of enterprises to export saline sand dredged from the river and sea beds of their own projects to recoup their investments.
The decision created favourable conditions for sand to be shipped in large quantities to the city-state of Singapore.
Authorities covered up, protected illegal sand miners: Deputy PM
Deputy Prime Minister Trương Hòa Bình yesterday admitted that some local authorities covered up for or even offered immunity to illegal sand miners.
During a Governmental meeting yesterday evening, Bình believed that the prolonged illegal sand mining on the national scale – even right in front of the eyes of the authorities – was mainly due to the fact that the local administrations “loosened their management, covered up and offered protection” to those miners.
The Deputy PM’s statement came a few days after an investigative series by the Tuổi trẻ (Youth) newspaper revealed how sand in Việt Nam was illegally exploited, transported and sold to Singapore.
A report by the Government Office showed that there were up to thousands of miners on hundreds of ships every night illegally exploiting sand along several river routes including the Hồng (Red), Đà, Lô and Cầu rivers in the north and Sài Gòn and Đồng Nai rivers down in the south.
The sand lost per night could reach up to tens of thousands of cubic metres.
To tackle the prolonged issue, Bình said that local authorities and its leaders should be subject to strict penalties if violations in sand mining management were detected.
“In case officials are found to have covered up for or offered protection to the miners, they will be handled strictly by the law”, he said.
The Deputy PM also asked for more intense inspections over sand mining in the future, with a police campaign against illegal mining taking place from March 15 to June 1. – VNS
According to the paper, although the companies asked for dredging permission for sand export, they did not dredge the sand themselves, selling the rights to other companies for handsome profits.
On October 1, 2014, the Hà Nội-based Green Environment Development Company signed a contract to sell one million cubic metres of sand to Hải Dương KG, based in the southern province of Kiên Giang, for VNĐ31,500 (US$1.4) per cubic metre. The total contract was worth VNĐ31.5 billion ($1.4 million). The sand was dredged during a project to improve the eco-system in Thủy Triều Lagoon in Cam Ranh City of central Khánh Hòa Province.
Sài Gòn-Hà Nội Company sold 1 million cubic metres of the sand to Hải Dương KG at VNĐ31,500 per cubic metre, and later signed contracts to export another million to Singapore’s TNS Resources.At the same time, the Khánh Hòa administration granted the Sài Gòn-Hà Nội Investment Construction and Mining Minerals Joint Stock Company permission to export 2.8 million cubic metres of saline sand from a dredging project on the Tắc River.
In January 2015, Hải Dương KG also purchased another dredging project with the right to export 1 million cubic metres of sand, from Hải Việt Company located in the northern province of Nam Định.
The Kiên Giang company paid Hải Việt VNĐ21,000 per cubic metre for the right to export the sand.
Even though Hải Dương KG has bought saline sand from three different projects at prices ranging from VNĐ21,000 to VNĐ31,500, the company declared to customs that the resource was exported at much lower prices.
For instance, in October and November 2015, Hải Dương KG exported 109,000 cu.m of sand to JIA DA Investment & Construction at only $1 per cu.m.
By declaring the export price at only $1, Hải Dương KG paid export duty of only VNĐ6,690 (30 cents) per cubic metre, significantly lower than the VNĐ26,760 ($1.2) that would have been charged for the real contract price of $4 per cu.m.
Land reclamation project
According to data obtained by Tuổi Trẻ, from January 1 to February 23 this year, 40 ships departed from Việt Nam to Singapore carrying 905,000 cubic metres of sand.
Đức Long Company exported the highest amount, weighing more than 600,000 cubic metres in total. Cái Mép Company ranked second with 369,000 cubic metres of sand.
The majority of sand dredging projects for export to Singapore are in the provinces of central Việt Nam, including Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị, Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Nam, Bình Định, Thừa Thiên-Huế, Bình Thuận and Ninh Thuận.
Eight projects are being conducted in Khánh Hòa and Phú Yên provinces by the Green Environment Development Company, Sài Gòn-Hà Nội Investment Construction and Mining Minerals Joint Stock Company, and Cái Mép Investment Joint Stock Company.
The sand is transported across the sea to Tekong Island to the northeast of Singapore and Changi Villa, close to Changi Airport.
According to a Singaporean enterprise which imports sand, for the past decade the city-state has been working on a $6.5 billion land reclamation project meant to expand the area of Tekong Island from 657 to 3,310 hectares. This company has imported sand from Việt Nam and several other countries to serve the project since 2009.
Losses for residents
In Vân Ninh District of central Khánh Hòa Province, where a dredging project of Vân Phong Bay was approved and the Phúc Sơn Company was allowed to export over 7 million cubic metres of exploited sand, all activities have stopped since 2016 due to strong opposition from local residents.
Hundreds of residents in Đông Nam and Đông Bắc hamlets earn their living from lobster breeding in the Đại Lãnh sea area. “The dredging activity has turned the water muddy and red. Lobsters died or moved to other places,” said one resident, Lê Minh Thương.
"The sea lobsters have declined by half since the sand has been exploited. Not only myself but all fishermen lost their living," Hồ Tấn Phú, another local lobster-catcher, told the paper.
In Phú Yên Province, the Tiên Châu port sand dredging project has caused severe erosion. The walls of some houses there reportedly cracked, while whole floors sank by nearly one metre.
“They sent six to seven sand dredging barges in several months, only 150m from my house. Being worried that land and houses would collapse into the sea, local residents were fiercely opposed and the operation stopped. I heard that they were about to start again,” said Nguyễn Hiếu, another area resident. — VNS
Bình Thuận cracks down on illegal sand mining
BÌNH THUẬN – Following the efforts of authorities of Hàm Thuận Bắc District in Bình Thuận Province, illegal sand mining in Hàm Liêm Commune has stopped, the Voice of Việt Nam (VOV) reported.
After VOV’s report on illegal sand mining, which caused outrage among residents last year, a supervision team was established by the district’s People’s Committee. The nine supervisors are officers of the district’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment, police officers, leaders of the commune’s People’s Committee and the army.
Nguyễn Thanh Giang, commander of the Hàm Liêm Commune’s army, said the supervisors regularly patrolled areas of illegal mineral exploitation in the commune and were often threatened by sand miners covertly driving trucks into the mining area at night.
According to the report, the path leading to the commune centre is now free of sand miners. Sand dredging vehicles have also been moved.
Although sand mining has ended, the supervision team is still patrolling round the clock to ensure it does not resume, Lê Thanh Cường, chairman of Hàm Liêm Commune’s People’s Committee, said.
Hàm Liêm Commune is home to a huge amount of high-quality sand right next to Phan Thiết City. The demand for sand in Hàm Thuận Bắc District and Phan Thiết City is relatively high, posing a high risk of sand mining resuming in the future. — VNS