Vietnam to test-run first alumina plant in early 2012 — Written 03/17/2012

For Your Information (FYI)

“Vinacomin and China’s Yunnan Metallurgical Group (YMG) have a 30-year deal for the Vietnamese firm to sell 600,000 to 900,000 tons of alumina to Yunnan Metallurgical each year to feed its smelter, Yunnan Aluminium Industry Co Ltd.

Vinacomin, which is also Vietnam’s top coal producer, has also been developing the Nhan Co alumina project in the neighboring province of Dak Nong, with projected initial output of 300,000 tons in 2014, which could be raised to 650,000 tons by 2016.”

“A draft mining plan for bauxite was approved by the Vietnamese government in 2007. Vinacomin, a Vietnamese mining company, has laid out a plan for 6 bauxite mining projects covering over 1800 square kilometers in Vietnam’s mountainous Central Highlands. The first two processing plants for the plan have been contracted to Chalco, a Chinese mining company. The Nhan Co project in Dak Nong Province and the Tan Rai complex in Lâm Đồng Province are expected to produce 600,000 tons of alumina per year. Vietnam has indicated that it needs about $15.6 billion to invest in major bauxite and alumina refining projects by 2025. Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng has approved several large mining projects for the Central Highlands, asserting that bauxite exploitation is “a major policy of the party and the state.”

The mining plans have met with strong criticism from scientists, environmentalists and Vietnam’s general population. Forests and agricultural land used by coffee and tea farmers are threatened by the plans and opponents have raised concerns about the toxic waste red mud generated through the refinement of bauxite. Vietnamese general Vo Nguyen Giap has offered strong criticism of the plans, saying that a 1980s study led to experts advising against mining due to severe ecological damage.

In March 2010, Google indicated that malicious software targeting Vietnamese opponents of bauxite mining had infected potentially tens of thousands of users.The malware was used in denial-of-service attacks against dissenting political blogs and installed itself after users downloaded altered Vietnamese language software. The malware was also used to spy on users. The cyber attacks appeared to be a politically motivated attack, according to George Kurtz of McAfee. Vietnamese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nguyen Phuong Nga claimed such comments were groundless.

In November 2010, Nguyen Tan Dung, the prime minister of Vietnam, announced that Vietnam’s bauxite deposits might total 11,000 Mt; this would be the largest in the world.”

“Bauxite is usually strip mined because it is almost always found near the surface of the terrain, with little or no overburden. Approximately 70% to 80% of the world’s dry bauxite production is processed first into alumina, and then into aluminium by electrolysis as of 2010. Bauxite rocks are typically classified according to their intended commercial application: metallurgical, abrasive, cement, chemical, and refractory.

Usually, bauxite ore is heated in a pressure vessel along with a sodium hydroxide solution at a temperature of 150 to 200 °C. At these temperatures, the aluminium is dissolved as an aluminate (the Bayer process). After separation of ferruginous residue (red mud) by filtering, pure gibbsite is precipitated when the liquid is cooled, and then seeded with fine-grained aluminium hydroxide. The gibbsite is usually converted into aluminium oxide, Al2O3, by heating. This mineral becomes molten at a temperature of about 1000 °C, when the mineral cryolite is added as a flux. Next, this molten substance can yield metallic aluminium by passing an electric current through it in the process of electrolysis, which is called the Hall–Héroult process after its American and French discoverers in 1886.

Prior to the Hall–Héroult process, elemental aluminium was made by heating ore along with elemental sodium or potassium in a vacuum. The method was complicated and consumed materials that were themselves expensive at that time. This made early elemental aluminium more expensive than gold.”

“An aluminium smelter uses prodigious amounts of electricity; they tend to be located very close to large power stations, often hydro-electric ones, and near ports since almost all of them use imported alumina.”(Consequently Viet Nam Nuclear Power Plants located near the bauxite production site and the site of potential future smelter(s))

If you add up the sources of “incidents” in Viet Nam, actual and potential, you have five (5) major sources, in order of risk gravity, from worst to severe:

Central Viet Nam Typhoons
Nuclear Power Plants
Mountaintop mining
Aluminum smelter(s)
Oil refineries

How many more sources of incidents Viet Nam needs to enlist the USA help before disaster strikes?

In addition, except for the Central Viet Nam Typhoons, every other incident type would bring ecological/environmental negative consequences to the west coast of the USA due to the Pacific Ocean currents circulation, like in the case of the Japanese radiation from March 2011 tsunami found, already, on USA shores…

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