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2.5.05 Protecting the world heritage site Ha Long Bay – German expertise supports mine rehabilitation

Black coal is an important energy source in Vietnam, but mining efforts are causing significant damage to the environment. In a joint venture, technologies and experiences from the German coal mining industry are being employed to make Vietnamese mining more environmentally compatible. Scientists and engineers from both countries are working on site to determine which techniques and procedures can be adapted to local requirements.

Some 95% (45 million t/a) of Vietnam’s coal extraction occurs in the Quang Ninh province in the north-east of the country. Yet the province is not only home to Vietnam’s most important coal field, but also to the unique natural landscape that is the Ha Long Bay. The Bay, with its countless limestone karsts and small islands, became an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and is a very popular tourist destination. The Vietnamese government wishes to develop the tourist appeal of Ha Long and further increase the number of visitors. But the country has also massively increased its mining efforts in recent times – and thus also the level of environmental damage to the area. The lack of vegetation on spoil tips and abandoned mining areas, combined with the transport of coal to harbours and power stations in open-bed trucks, have caused a high level of dust pollution – many villages and entire stretches of land are covered in grey dust.

Mine and seepage water entering the Bay

The mine and seepage water from the spoil tips is contaminating the streams and rivers in the mining areas; it flows into the Ha Long Bay, where it endangers or damages the unique and highly sensitive coastal and marine fauna and flora. Large-scale erosion of the unvegetated mining areas exacerbates the situation by transporting carbonaceous fines into the Bay. Another problem is the lacking space for spoil tips: to save space, the tips are usually built up very steeply and in direct proximity of nearby villages; this can lead to landslides posing a significant risk to the residents.

Ha Long Bay is a recognised world heritage site

Ha Long Bay is a recognised world heritage site
Ha Long Bay is a recognised world heritage site
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The mine and seepage water from the spoil tips is contaminating the streams and rivers in the mining areas; it flows into the Ha Long Bay, where it endangers or damages the unique and highly sensitive coastal and marine fauna and flora. Large-scale erosion of the unvegetated mining areas exacerbates the situation by transporting carbonaceous fines into the Bay. Another problem is the lacking space for spoil tips: to save space, the tips are usually built up very steeply and in direct proximity of nearby villages; this can lead to landslides posing a significant risk to the residents.

To eliminate or at least reduce the negative consequences and risks of Vietnam’s coal mining to man and nature, rehabilitation measures are urgently required. But how can German expertise in mine rehabilitation be adapted to specific Vietnamese requirements? This question is being addressed by the BMBF-funded, German-Vietnamese research programme “RAME (Research Association Mining and Environment) in Vietnam, Quang Ninh Protecting the world heritage site Ha Long Bay – German expertise supports mine rehabilitation province”. The project is being overseen by the Chair of Environmental Engineering and Ecology of the Ruhr University Bochum (Prof. Dr. Harro Stolpe), with a study period of 2007 to 2012. The project participants are RWTH Aachen University (Chair of Mining Engineering I), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), CBM GmbHGesellschaft für Consulting, Business und Management mbH (Aachen), Brenk Systemplanung GmbH (Aachen), LMBV International GmbH, eta AG engineering (Cottbus), GFI Grundwasserforschungsinstitut GmbH (Dresden), BioPlanta GmbH (Leipzig) and DHI-WASI GmbH (Berlin). Work is being performed in close co-operation with the Vietnam National Coal-Mineral Industries Holding Cooperation Limited (VINACOMIN), which has provided the research team with an office at its Hanoi headquarters. The German partners are developing the technical concepts to be implemented by VINACOMIN at the example locations in the form of pilot projects.

During the first project phase (2005 to 2007), the aim was to identify, isolate and describe the specific problems as well as to find suitable example locations to perform analyses for the adaptation of German technologies (topic: mining and the environment in Vietnam, problem analysis and solution strategies). Since 2007, the project partners have been developing concepts for selected locations: the Chinh Bac Nui Beo spoil pit (stabilisation and recultivation), the mining location Vang Danh (wastewater treatment) as well as the mining areas Dong Trieu (treatment of mining-impacted water in a passive water purification system) and Hon Gai (environmental management).

Pilot system and experiments

After establishing the ecological consequences of mining during the first phase, the project team – in collaboration with VINACOMIN – designed an adapted mine water purification system that would remove both the fine carbon particles as well as the high iron and manganese content. Extensive field experiments were conducted on the selected spoil tip, e.g. relating to the pouring technology After selection of suitable local species, plant experiments for the recultivation efforts were also introduced on this tip and are currently examined on a regular basis. Based on the data recorded for Hon Gai, an environmental information system is being implemented that will facilitate the environmental management and reporting of VINACOMIN. Furthermore, a handbook for Vietnamese environmental engineers is to be created by the end of the project on the basis of knowledge acquired from the pilot systems and various experiments.

Vietnamese experts trained

A village in front of a spoil tip in Quang Ninh

A village in front of a spoil tip in Quang Ninh
A village in front of a spoil tip in Quang Ninh
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An important aspect if the project is the cultivation of contact with Vietnamese research institutes, ministries, authorities and companies. In this regard, an excellent working relationship has already been established with scientists of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) and the Hanoi University of Mining and Geology (HUMG). This scientific collaboration is also paving the way for later economic co-operation between German and Vietnamese companies.

Acacia seedlings planted by VINACOMIN

Acacia seedlings planted by VINACOMIN
Acacia seedlings planted by VINACOMIN
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The capacity building measures of the joint venture are another important aspect of the technology transfer conducted in this project. A number of one to three-week courses were held for VINACOMIN employees in Vietnam; these were taught by German mining experts and covered topics such as dust, spoil tip design and mine water. In addition, technical excursions to Germany were organised to show the decision-makers of VINACOMIN examples of mining locations with effective rehabilitation and recultivation measures.

Project website www.vinacomin.vn

Ruhr University Bochum
Environmental Engineering and Ecology

Prof. Dr. Harro Stolpe
Universitätsstraße 150
44780 Bochum
Tel.: +49(0)2 34/32-2 79 95
Fax: +49(0)2 34/32-1 47 01
E-mail: harro.stolpe@ruhr-uni-bochum.de
Internet: www.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/ecology/index.html.en


Research Association Mining and Environment in Vietnam (RAME)
Vietnam National Coal & Mineral Industries Group (VINACOMIN)

Dr.-Ing. Katrin Brömme (CEO)
226 Le Duan
Ha Noi, Viet Nam
Tel.: +49(0)0 84/4 35 18 83 07
Fax: +49(0)0 84/4 35 18 83 41
E-mail: katrin.broemme@rub.de
Internet: www.rame.vn

Funding reference: 02WB0689 (pre-project), 02WB0915, 02WB0916, 02WB0917, 02WB0919 (project co-ordination), 02WB0957, 02WB0958, 02WB0964, 02WB0965, 02WB1017, 02WB1018, 02WB1019, 02WB1250, 02WB1251
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Project website

www.vinacomin.vn