Natural resources, energy and environment
Vietnam's most important natural resources
are oil, natural gas and coal. The oil generates an
important part of the country's export revenue. Natural
gas and hydropower generate most of the electricity.
Biomass - mainly wood and agricultural waste - accounts
for around a third of total energy consumption.
In Vietnam there are also deposits of tin, zinc, iron
ore, rubies, gold and bauxite (used in aluminum
production), as well as copper, manganese and titanium
extracted in smaller quantities.
Major exports by Vietnam with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.
Oil has been mined since 1986, when the first oil
field Bach Ho (White Tiger) in the South China Sea was
put into operation. The reserves are the second largest
in East Asia (after China's) and strategically more
important. The state of Petrovietnam devotes itself to
everything from seeking new finds to distribution and is
the country's largest oil producer. Much of the
extraction of both oil and gas takes place through joint
ventures with foreign companies.
While Vietnam exports crude oil, the country must
import large quantities of fuel. The reason is that the
country's capacity to refine the oil is too small.
Large extraction of coal and natural gas
Natural gas has been used for electricity production
since 1995, when a gas pipeline to the mainland from the
Bach Ho field was completed. New large gas deposits have
been found in recent years. Electricity consumption
quadrupled in ten years from 2000 and has continued to
rise rapidly. Hydropower and natural gas generate most
of the electricity, but coal still accounts for almost a
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The coal, which is mainly mined near the Chinese
border, has long been the most important natural
resource. After a period of stagnation, coal mining has
again increased since the mid-1990s. Much of the coal is
Vietnam decided in 2009 to build a first nuclear
power plant, in the province of Ninh Thuan, with the
support of a Russian and a Japanese company. The first
of two planned reactors was expected to be commissioned
in 2020. In the fall of 2016, however, the government
shut down the nuclear project, which has become
considerably more expensive than planned.
Northern Vietnam has an overproduction of
electricity, thanks in large part to the large Song Da
dam at Bien Hoa, west of Hanoi. The situation is more
difficult in the south. It was not until 1994 that
electric power could begin to be transferred from north
to south via a new line. It has improved the electricity
supply in the south, but at the same time
industrialization and increased living standards there
have led to a rapid increase in demand for electric
power. Electricity production is steadily increasing,
but still keeps pace with demand with little need.
Severe environmental degradation
During the war against the United States (see
Modern History), Vietnam suffered enormous
environmental degradation. Around one-sixth of South
Vietnam's surface was then sprayed with herbicides,
including the detergent Agent Orange, which was used to
more easily detect Vietnamese guerrilla soldiers in the
forests. Large areas of forest and arable land were
destroyed, not only by poisons, but also by fires and
American excavators that wiped out villages, forests and
The United States has supported social projects
related to Agent Orange, which, among other things,
caused severe deformities and diseases such as cancer.
In 2012, for the first time, a remediation project with
American support was also initiated. The decontamination
is done at a former US air base in Da Nang, where the
poison is stored.
In the early 1940s, nearly half of Vietnam's area was
covered with forest. After heavy felling, the forest
area in the 1990s was down for about a quarter. In 1992,
all exports of timber and timber products were banned.
The ban was later lifted, but the state is still trying
to limit forest harvesting and plant new forest. Today,
the proportion of wooded area is approaching half the
land area again.
Industry expansion in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City
creates serious environmental problems. Industrial
emissions are not sufficiently cleansed. Agriculture's
increased use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and
other chemicals poses a health risk. The existing
environmental laws are often not complied with.
FACTS - ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Energy use per person
668 kilos of oil equivalent (2013)
Electricity consumption per person
1439 kilowatt hours, kWh (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions in total
166 911 thousand tonnes (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant
1.8 tonnes (2014)
The share of energy from renewable sources
35.0 percent (2015)
Clinton visits Vietnam
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Vietnam.
The head of Vinashin is arrested
The government seizes Pham Thanh Binh, chief of the shipbuilder Vinashin,
which is one of the country's largest state companies. He is accused of nearly
bankrupting Vinashin (see also Finance).
Increased oppression against dissimilar thinking
The human rights organization Human Rights Watch accuses Vietnam to step up
repression of dissent on the Internet.
Additional activists convicted
Le Cong Dinh (see June 2009) is sentenced to 5 years in
prison while three other activists face between 7 and 16 years in prison,
accused of trying to overthrow the government.