The Vietnam Government Portal held an on-line forum on December 3 to review the implementation of policies governing the mining industry.

Participating the event were Nguyen Linh Ngoc, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, and Nguyen Manh Quan, Director General of the Heavy Industry Department of the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Referring to the low ranking position of Vietnam's mineral resource management index, released by the US Revenue Watch Institute – in which the country placed 43 out of the 58 countries covered in the survey, Deputy Minister Ngoc said such a conclusion didn't reflect the whole picture of Vietnam's mineral industry.

"It only makes assessment on the group of fossil minerals - mainly oil and gas," Ngoc said. "We have to carefully review the current status of our work on mineral resource management."

Responding to a comment that the work of mineral resource planning contains three activities - exploration, exploitation and using a format called "three in one", which has a great potential of risk, Quan conceded that this was the weakness in the nation's mineral industry.

"Most of the planning done by either central or local agencies have failed to come up with a long vision," he said. "Basic survey activities are the weakest in the chain due to budget constraints. The State budget is able to cover just about 40 percent of the work. That's why many of the surveys have failed to give a correct forecast of the reserve of each mineral."

Regarding the tendering process of the minerals under the 2010 Mineral Law, Deputy Minister Ngoc agreed that there remains much work to do to turn the law into reality.

He said though the Government's Decree 22 on mineral bidding for exploitation was issued in March 2012, by now it has not been implemented due to a lack of guiding documents.

He blamed the slow implementation of the law, including Decree 22 and other legal documents, on poor coordination between government agencies, particularly the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the provincial/city People's Committees.

Asked why more than half of the 957 permits for mineral exploitation issued by local government in two years (2011-2012) were not in line with government policies or law, Ngoc attributed this to poor awareness about the legal documents among local government officials and their poor professional skills. He also blamed the lack of responsibility on senior officials who are assigned to the job from the central and provincial authorities.

Under sections of Article 82 of the 2010 Mineral Law, the Provincial People's Committee is allowed to grant permits to small mines which are defined by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. However, in practice, some local authorities divided large mines into small sections so they could grant exploitation permits, according to the deputy minister.

"We have to take action to halt such illegal activities immediately," Ngoc said.

To overcome "loop holes" in mineral exploitation, Quan proposed that the State levy taxes on the approved mineral reserves of the mines, not on the actual mineral exploitation, as presently done.

In his conclusion, Deputy Minister Ngoc promised that his ministry will do its best to ensure that transparency and efficiency will be applied in the exploitation of mineral resources.-VNA