Taiwan steel plant opens in Vietnam after fish deaths

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Taiwan steel plant opens in Vietnam after fish deaths

Hanoi (AFP) - A Taiwanese steel firm behind a toxic waste dump that killed tonnes of fish in Vietnam last year started operations on Monday, state media in Hanoi reported.

The incident was one of the worst environmental disasters in Vietnam, decimating livelihoods along the central coast and sparking angry protests that continue today.

The $11-billion Formosa steel plant in central Ha Tinh province was still under construction when it was accused of illegally dumping waste into the ocean, causing masses of fish to wash up on beaches, including rare offshore species.

The plant's blast furnace started operating on Monday on a trial basis and will be closely monitored, according to an environment official quoted in the official Vietnam News Agency (VNA).

"If any incident occurs then we will stop operations immediately," said Hoang Duong Tung, deputy director of Vietnam's Environment Administration, quoted by VNA.

The test-run results will be available in 24 hours, he added, without specifying what they are monitoring for.

The Formosa plant was subject to a series of inspections, and the plant addressed 52 out of 53 violations identified before being greenlit to operate.

The remaining violation was related to a wet coking system, and officials said Formosa would switch to a cleaner dry coking system by 2019, according to VNA.

The Taiwanese steel conglomerate was ordered to pay $500 million to the Vietnam government after the mass fish deaths in April 2016.

Fishermen have continued to protest in central Vietnam, demanding greater compensation for the disaster, while some say they have still not been paid.

In April, four former officials were stripped of their Communist party positions over the Formosa scandal, including a former Ha Tinh official who has resigned from his MP post.