The $348-million pulp mill invested by Hong Kong-based Lee&Man Paper Group has been warned to have its investment certificate withdrawn due to violations of the Law on Land and the Law on Investment.
The project was licensed in mid-2007 and was adjusted in June 2011. It has a total investment capital amount of $348.7 million with the annual capacity of 330,000 tonnes of pulp.The Hau Giang People’s Committee has proposed the Ministry of Planning and Investment to revoke the investment certificate of the Lee&Man pulp mill due to its long delay in construction, a violation of the Law on Land and the Law on Investment.
According to the initial plan, the construction would be implemented in October 2013 so that the mill could come into operation at the end of 2015. However, due to the long delay, in mid-2016, the investor asked the province to extend the deadline to start construction to May 2017 and complete it in August 2018. However, the investor still missed the May 2017 deadline. To date, after holding the investment certificate for 11 years, the date to implement the construction is still unknown.
The investor’s reason for the delay is that it had registered to develop two projects in Hau Giang, a paper manufacturing and a pulp mill. At present, Lee&Man is focusing on the test operations of the paper mill and is researching the market demand, leaving little time and resources for the pulp mill.
Regarding Hau Giang, the province said that the investor was granted the certificate of land use rights for an area of 40.8 hactares in 2008, however, to date, it had yet to implement the construction, meaning that it violated the Law on Land.
However, the underlying cause of the investment certificate revocation is concerns of environmental pollution after the pulp mill comes into operation. Such concerns have been consistently raised for both the paper manufacturing factory and the pulp mill since the beginning.
Previously, numerous associations, experts, and residents expressed concerns that Lee&Man’s paper manufacturing factory may cause serious environmental pollution if its waste treatment system is not scrutinised.
On June 20, 2016, the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) proposed the Vietnamese government to scrutinise the waste treatment system of the paper manufacturing factory before it comes into operation in August.
In late July, 2016, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) asked the government to stop the development of the pulp mill on the same grounds.
Amid increasing concerns, Lee&Man held an unregistered press conference where general director Chung Wai Fu confirmed that the plant has a modern wastewater treatment system with a capacity of 20,000 cubic metres a day. Besides, they will not use sodium hydroxide (NaOH), a major pollutant, at any stage of the production process.
Fu added that once operational, the wastewater treatment facility would be supervised by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
At present, the paper mill is in test operations.