A South Korean-Vietnamese shipbuilding company in central Khanh Hoa Province on Tuesday was ordered to store 20,000 tons of copper slag it imported late 2009, which sparked public outrage about harmful impacts it may have on human health.
Hyundai Vinashin workers wrap canvas around the copper slag waste before the inpection team comes.
After an inspection made by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment officers, the Hyundai Vinashin Shipyard Co. Ltd. (HVS) was told to report on environment protection methods if it wanted to use the copper slag in the future.
The Khanh Hoa Province People’s Committee was asked to explain why it allowed the import of cooper slag by HVS, a joint-venture between South Korea’s Hyundai Group and the Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Corporation.
HVS deputy general director, Vu Minh Phu, told Tuoi Tre the abrasive substances were imported for cleaning the ship surface within two years.
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, it previously turned down a proposal on copper slag import by the Khanh Hoa provincial authorities.
Copper slag is an abrasive blasting grit made of granulated slag from metal smelting processes. Copper slag abrasive is suitable for blast cleaning of steel and stone or concrete surfaces, removal of mill scale, rust, old paint and dirt.
On July 8, 2008, environmental police caught Hyundai Vinashin using four trucks to try to dump more than 60 tons of the toxic waste near a residential area in Ninh Hoa District.
The trucks were then ordered to take the waste back to the shipyard.
According to local scientists, the copper slag dust dispersed from the site contains metal elements such as iron, copper and lead, which are harmful to human health.
Tuoi Tre found out people living near the HVS factory have suffered from great agony caused by the copper slag dust, as the microscopic grains have been widely diffused in the air, constantly enveloping villages nearby.
In November 2008, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai gave Hyundai Vinashin a three-year deadline to clean up its copper slag waste.
Meanwhile, HVS kept on saying that copper slag is not harmful and the abrasives are widely used in the shipbuilding industry in many countries in the world, including Japan, South Korea and Singapore.