A dust explosion rocked Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa Plastics Group’s new steel plant in Vietnam on May 30, a day after it resumed test operations for the first time since taking responsibility for one of the country’s worst environmental disasters last year. The explosion was caused by the combustion of fine dust particles in the air as a result of an equipment malfunction, the company said.
There were no casualties and the company said the blast would have little impact on preparations for the launch of production but the incident is likely to raise fresh concerns about the safety of the $11 billion plant.
The provincial People’s Committee in Ha Tinh confirmed that the explosion, triggered by limestone dust, had caused some physical damage but no injuries or environmental harm.
The Formosa Ha Tinh Steel plant spilled toxic waste that polluted more than 200 km (125 miles) of Vietnam’s coastline in 2016, devastating sea life and local economies dependent on fishing and tourism. The plant restarted on May 29 after its operations were halted in the wake of the disaster.
Formosa paid $500 million in compensation to affected communities and in March said it would boost investment by about $350 million in the steel project, amid public outcry against the company and the government’s handling of the spill.
The fresh investment will go into improving environmental safety measures, raise working capital, buy material and build a dry coking system.