Illegal sand mining along the Cau River, Bac Ninh province, Vietnam

Illegal river sand mining increases with Bac Ninh's construction boom. While few actors appropriate large profits, the local population carries the environmental and socio-economic costs of river degradation.


Vietnam’s construction sector has been booming during the last decade, showing a vast growth of 6.5- 10% during 2000-2009, associated to a rapid increase in the development of industrial zones, residential areas, road construction, as well as sanitation and irrigation infrastructures. The rapid growth of the construction sector has been closely correlated with growing demand for river sand, coming from both legal and illegal river sand mining activities [1].

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Basic Data
NameIllegal sand mining along the Cau River, Bac Ninh province, Vietnam
ProvinceBac Ninh province
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific CommoditiesSand, gravel
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsDue to the illegal nature of the sand mining activities along the Cau River, little specific information is available. This section introduces some general information, as well as a few specific details.

On a country level, illegal sand mining has been reported from 43 provinces out of a total of 64. Estimates on large illegal sand mining spots indicate at least 659 spots at the country level, while thousands of small sand mining spots exist; turning it into a national problem [1].

Sand mining is covered by the 2005 Mineral Laws of Vietnam. Legal sand miners need permission by the responsible management agencies, which are usually the provincial people’s committee. The legal miners have to pay taxes and environmental fees and further have to assure no damage to nearby infrastructure [1]. However, few controls exist to check whether the miners exceed the granted mining capacities.

In 2006, the Bac Ninh Provincial People Committee decided that a total of 11.661 million m3 of sand could be extracted in all rivers of the province; whereas for the Cau River, the limit was set to 514,000m3. Estimates on the total sand reserves in Cau River indicated 2.27 million m3. There are 12 large and 11 small legal sand extraction spots [1].

Large parts of the extracted sand are used for ground filling of industrial zones (IZ): in total, nine IZ’s covering an area of 3,295ha are located in Bac Ninh province. Annual demand for sand from IZ development was estimated at around 1 million m3 in 2011, with a growth rate of at least 8.5 percent annually, during 2010-2015 [1].
Project Area (in hectares)70km2 of river lenght
Level of Investment (in USD)unknown
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Populationunknow
Start Date2000
Relevant government actorsBac Ninh Provincial People Committee
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersEconomy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia (EEPSEA); Department of Resources and Environmental Economics, Hanoi University.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Police crackdowns; Seizing of vessels;
Community surveillance teams
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Other Environmental impacts, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
OtherLandslides; dike degradation; declining fish habitats
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Deaths, Other Health impacts, Accidents, Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
OtherIn other provinces, people have died through landslides caused by river erosion
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Other socio-economic impacts, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood
Potential: Displacement
Otherdeclining fish stocks; declining agricultural area due to dike degradation
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Institutional changes
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Development of AlternativesA report published by the Department of Resources and Environmental Economics, Hanoi University on behalf of EEPSEA, recommended an improvement of the legal framework for sand mining, including clear and heavy penalties; allocation of adequate funds in order to manage, govern and mitigate legal and illegal sand mining activities; fostering increased coordination among local authorities; the establishment of surveillance teams at the commune level; as well as a wider dissemination of information for the public regarding the negative impacts of sand mining on the one side, and information on potential use of alternative materials, on the other side [for details, see [1].
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Illegal sand mining goes on.
Sources and Materials

2010 Mineral Law of Vietnam
[click to view]

2005 Mineral law of Vietnam
[click to view]


[1] Nguyen Mau Dung, 2011. River Sand Mining And Managament: A Case Of Cau River In Bac Ninh Province, Vietnam. Research Report No. 2011 RR7. Published by the Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia (EEPSEA)
[click to view]


Viet Nam News online (09/06/2015): "Mineral exploitation comes at a cost" (accessed 30/06/2015)
[click to view]

Other Documents

Controls of sand miners along the Cau River Source:
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorA. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) / arnim "dot" scheidel "at" uab "dot" cat
Last update02/07/2015