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Issue 28
, 2010
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China to Shut Copper Smelters Violating Environment

Source: Bloomberg Business week, Date: , 2010

China, the biggest smelter of copper, may shut plants that violate environmental rules, as the government tightens regulations after a series of industrial accidents led to waste spilling into rivers and seas.

Copper smelters will need to spend two years in reorganization before they reapply for approval to operate after a ban, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a statement on its website, without giving details. The ministry will have a list of approved producers, it said.

Environmental accidents in China, the largest metals and energy consumer, almost doubled in the first half. Zijin Mining Group Co. leaked acidic copper waste into the Ting River of Fujian province last month, poisoning almost 2,000 metric tons of fish, adding to accidents that included an oil spill, gas pipeline explosion and chemicals leak in the past two months.

“It’s all part of the government’s efforts to clean up China’s environment,” Zhao Kai, an analyst at Jinrui Futures Co., said from Shenzhen. “It will affect new entrants as they will now come under greater scrutiny.”

Refined copper output in China jumped 18 percent to 2.26 million tons in the first half from a year ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Output reached 4.16 million tons last year, and is expected to hit 4.5 million tons this year, according to Beijing Antaike Information Development Co.

Copper Smelting

The nation accounted for 23 percent of global copper smelter output in 2008, the biggest in the world, according to the International Copper Study Group’s 2009 yearbook.

There were about 102 accidents in the first half, compared with 171 for the whole of 2010, according to figures derived from the environmental protection ministry’s data. Zijin’s waste leak was the worst in the Chinese gold industry in two years.

The environmental ministry started a nationwide investigation of drinking water and mine tailing ponds this year, it said last month. It checked almost 1 companies last year, and forced more than 2,000 to stop or curb production, according to its annual report.

Copper smelters must shut outdated plants and facilities before applying to become an approved operator, the industry ministry said today.

Copper on the London Metal Exchange has gained 23 percent in the past year as China boosted imports after the government’s stimulus spending boosted manufacturers and builders. The metal for delivery in three months traded at $7,433 a ton at 3:44 p.m. in Singapore.