The Government has ordered a halt in licensing titanium ore exploration and exploitation in south central Binh Thuan Province, with a view to ensure local environmental preservation.
In a document released on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai gave concrete instruction to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, as well as Binh Thuan People's Committee.
The move came following rampant exploitation throughout the province, known for its vast amounts of titanium.
According to Dao Thanh Binh, deputy director of the environmental ministry's Department for Mineral Control, exploitation has been carried out on a scale far exceeding legal and sustainable limits.
Reports have shown that Binh Thuan holds the largest titanium reserves in Southeast Asia, with 558 million tonnes spanning a total area of 774sq.m, according to Huynh Giac, director of the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
The reserves have been valued at around $138 billion, according to mineral experts.
While only 20 units had been allowed to exploit titanium ore at a total volume of 500,000 tonnes in the province, hundreds of local residents had been illegally exploiting the mineral every day, trading it at VND300,000-400,000 ($14.6-19.5) a kilo, Giac said.
"Halting titanium exploitation is an effective measure in fighting illegal activity and effectively managing operations," he added.
Furthermore, as huge volumes of water were used in exploiting and cleansing titanium ore, water sources had become increasingly polluted,causing a huge health risk to local people and workers, Giac said.
Titananium is a valuable metal used in more than 30 different industrial sectors including plane manufacture, aeronautics and in the production of oil and gas exploitation equipment.