Titanium Mining: Binh Thuan at risk of "dying of thirst"

By Tinh Nhi - Aug 08, 2017 | 07:09 AM GMT+7

TheLEADERCatastrophic consequences of titanium mining as well as tremendous impacts on the environment of Binh Thuan province are expected to be serious, according to scientists.

Titanium Mining: Binh Thuan at risk of "dying of thirst"
A titan mining pit in Binh Thuan (Photo: Internet)

Binh Thuan is thirsty for fresh water

Binh Thuan is one of the most arid provinces in the country. The average temperature around the year is 26 - 27oC. Much of the province receives less than 800mm of rain per year. The months from November to April are particularly dry with less 200mm of rain.

Binh Thuan is mainly covered by sandy soil and deserts. Water is stored in sand dunes and becomes a rare resource. In addition, many natural lakes are the oases created by the accumulation of underground water.

According to a 2016 report by Binh Thuan province Department of Natural Resources and Environment, water supply for urban areas in Binh Thuan mainly depends on surface water.

Desertification risk

However, Binh Thuan is gifted with the largest titanium potential in the country, even in Southeast Asia. Nonetheless, according to scientists, the impacts of titanium mining on the environment in Binh Thuan are expected to be quite serious.

According to Prof. – Dr.Sc Dang Trung Thuan, titanium mining requires a large amount of water. The current technology is to flood the pits. Meanwhile, water sources in Binh Thuan only refill in the rainy season and decide the life of the whole region.

The deeper the exploration goes, the more tremendous the impacts on the environment are. Water sources stored in sand dunes will be severely depleted, which reduces the humidity of the soil above the water and might result in land subsidence.

In addition, the excessive use of water in mining also leads to a drastic decline in surface water sources in rivers, streams, lakes,…, which increases saltwater intrusion into the aquifers.

Assoc. Prof. – Dr Doan Van Canh, Chairman of Vietnam Association of Hydrogeology, also recognized the ground water sources as the current major difficulty in mining titanium ores.

Most of the areas planned for titanium mining projects are located on the coast, which has large sandy areas and limited fresh water sources. In the rainy season, there are only ponds and lakes to meet the needs of the local but not enough for titanium mining. Therefore, the more the areas are planned for mining, the more severely the water for everyday life and cultivation is affected.

In addition, overuse of water resources for titanium mining leads to the risk of pollution, salinity intrusion and changes in the topography and landscape. This can also result in the destruction of the vegetation cover, biodiversity, the coastal landscape,... It is reported that topography changes mainly occur in open areas with artificial waste hills about 200-300m high.

Titanium mining in Binh Thuan and central provinces will disturb the sand layers and disrupt the natural link between them, hence reducing its ability to retain groundwater. On the other hand, the mining may destroy vegetation cover, which causes the biodiversity loss in the typical ecosystem of sand dunes.

Assoc. Prof. – Dr Doan Van Canh, Chairman of Vietnam Association of Hydrogeology, warned that it was strictly forbidden to pump seawater into the mining pits because it will irreversibly contaminate the aquifers. If there is not enough water for the mining, water must be supplied from other sources.

Numerous questions are being raised on this issue. It is important to carefully consider the plan to avoid the catastrophic consequences in the future, Prof. Dr.SC Dang Trung Thuan emphasized.