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Update on limestone mining and cement industry in Taiwan

27/09/2009

I blogged about the government decision to lift the ban on mining in 12 limestone conservation areas before. After meeting strong resistance from all the DPP local governments, environmentalist groups and local residents, the government announced on 24 September that they would NOT lift the ban and those 12 areas would still remain protected.

The reactions from the cement industry were interesting. They complained about the government going back and forth, which was hard for them to follow. Now, they can only try to focus on the production of plaster and reinvest.  They said that they had been losing money on the transport cost to have limestone imported from Philippine or transported from Eastern Taiwan. That’s why they were hoping that the mining would be allowed.

However, Taiwan’s domestic demand for cement has declined after major projects such as the high speed rail and KMRT. Some of those cement factories have had to export their products and some have moved to China where the demand is high. In fact, one of the company spokespersons expressed their wish that the government would increase the spending on large construction projects so that the excessive supply has somewhere to go domestically. So, why would they push for the government to open up those reserves to increase their cement production when their supply far exceeds the domestic demands? If they were looking to increase their output so that they could sell to other countries, wouldn’t they be better off using limestone in those countries, or somewhere nearby to reduce the transport cost they were complaining about in the first place? Were they (or the government) looking out for China where a lot of construction work is still going on? Bear in mind that limestone mining and cement production really pollute the air.

In addition, was the pressure from those industries that supported Ma (the Chinese Nationalist Party, KMT) in the election the reason why Ma insisted on increasing government spending on building infrastructure as an economic solution? Was the pressure from certain industries the reason why KMT came up with all sorts of arguments against land restoration in the past?

The latest decision is welcomed as it’s good for environmental protection. It shows that the KMT still has to comply with people’s wishes if their opposition is strong enough. However, this does not mean the KMT has suddenly adopted a fundamental change in their stance on the environment and land restoration. It still remains to be seen.

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