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Hungarian eco-disaster offers cautionary tale to Vietnam

The recent aluminum mining accident in Hungary serves as a "warning" for Vietnam to tread carefully as it prepares to develop bauxite projects in the Central Highlands, an official of the state mining group said.

Vietnam is developing two bauxite mining and processing complexes in the region.

Duong Van Hoa, Deputy General Director of the state-run National Coal-Mineral Industries Group, said the projects will have eight sludge reservoirs, enough to store 12 years worth of toxic waste.

In case a reservoir faces technical problems, Hoa said, there will always be another one ready to store the toxic sludge.

Careful environmental precautions will be taken to ensure that the sludge is neutralized properly, he said.

Each reservoir can store a total two-year amount of sludge, and after three years the sludge will be toxin-free.

Three villages in southwest Hungary were flooded Monday with a wave of toxic red sludge from an alumina plant reservoir.

Environmental group WWF-Hungary said the main threat posed from sludge was its alkalinity, with a pH as high as 13. The sludge is a byproduct of refining bauxite into alumina.

Vietnam's bauxite reserves are among the largest in the world at 5.5 billion tons, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

Sixty-six percent of the construction of Vietnam's first bauxite mining project in Lam Dong Province, Tan Rai, has been completed, Vietnam News Agency reported Tuesday.

The project is scheduled for completion at the end of this year.

Construction at the second project, Nhan Co in Dak Nong Province, began in March.