The Vietnam Coal and Mineral Group (Vinacomin) claims that bauxite mining plants Tan Rai and Nhan Co in the Central Highlands are socio-economically efficient and environmentally safe.

Construction began on the Tan Rai Plant in Lam Dong province in 2008 and on the Nhan Co Plant two years later in Dak Nong province, but there are concerns the plants may be unsafe.

According to a Vinacomin report presented on May 16, the plants have exploited 1.6 million tonnes of bauxite ore to produce 265,000 tonnes of refined bauxite up to this April.

Each plant's annual output is about 650,000 tonnes of alumina.

Nguyen Tien Chinh, head of Vinacomin's science, technology and strategic development, admitted that the two plants are not meeting the desired economic expectations currently but will be beneficial in the long-term.

According to the group, by April, the total investment capital for both plants was about 11.6 trillion VND (over 0.5 billion USD).

Vinacomin said it expects to sell 50,300 tonnes of alumina and 8,670 tonnes of hydrate to eight customers by June.

Chinh said the time span for return of capital for the Lam Dong complex is 12 years and Tan Rai 13 years. Both projects put about 850 billion VND (41.4 million USD) into the State budget each year and provide employment for about 3,000 people.

The group also claims that the technologies used do not harm the environment.

Vietnam is believed to have 10 to 11 billion of tonnes of bauxite, mainly found in the Central Highlands, but it still has to import 100 percent of alumina for production.

The Tan Rai and Nhan Co plants are two of six plants to be built in the Central Highlands to produce 6-8.5 million tonnes of alumina, or refined bauxite, annually by 2015.-VNA