MAC/20: Mines and Communities

China Plans To Rein In Heavy Metal Pollution

Published by MAC on 2011-03-01
Source: PlanetArk, Reuters, Peoples Daily

More than 800 villagers are now suing China's largest diversified miner, Zijin, following last year's massive tailings disaster. For background, see: China: a state of "tailings disaster"

Meanwhile - as more lead poisoning victims were announced - the country's minister of environmental protection has pledged to curb the toll of heave metal pollution.

China Plans To Rein In Heavy Metal Pollution

By Michael Martina


23 February 2011

China's environmental protection agency has vowed to curb heavy metal pollution in a bid to cut widespread industrial contaminants like lead that have poisoned children and sparked protests.

The world's top consumer and producer of lead, China has struggled to rein in polluting industry under lax environmental regulations as the country's economy grows rapidly. Lead-poisoning, especially in children, has roused public anger.

"The prevention of heavy metal pollution concerns the health of the people, especially children's health, and concerns social harmony and stability," Minister of Environmental Protection Zhou Shengxian said in a speech on Friday. The summary of the speech was published on the ministry's website on Tuesday.

In a fresh plan outlined by Zhou, Beijing will aim to cut pollution in key regions and industries, including lead-acid battery manufacturing and lead smelting, by 15 percent of 2007 levels by 2015.

Other "non-focus areas" that do not exceed 2007 levels for heavy metal pollution will have been considered effectively controlled, Zhou said.

The plan will include provisions to make local officials accountable for reduction targets, Zhou said, adding that serious investigations will take place if regions do not meet requirements of the plan.

China has repeatedly promised to clean up its distressed environment. But it often fails to match rhetoric with the resources and political will to enforce Beijing's mandates, as officials put economic development ahead of environmental protection.

In January, more than 200 children living near battery plants in eastern China showed elevated levels of lead in their blood, prompting parents to demand compensation from the government.

Lead is not the only heavy metal wreaking havoc on China's environment and the health of citizens.

Chinese gold miner Zijin Mining has been ordered to pay millions of yuan in fines for its role in a series of environmental lapses, including 2010 waste water leaks at its Zijinshan copper and gold mine in Fujian province that dumped toxins into the Ting river.

The China Daily last week cited a study by a professor at Nanjing Agricultural University showing 10 percent of China's rice market, and more than 60 percent of rice grown in some southern provinces, may contain high levels of cadmium.

Cadmium can damage the lungs, blood, heart and kidneys with long-term exposure.

Greenpeace's China campaign manager Yang Ailun said pollution accidents in China have been on the rise in the past five years, and the next five could be worse.

"The old facilities that were put in place 20 years ago, many of them are starting to expire or breakdown," Yang told Reuters.

"The next five years are really important if they (the government) want to put in place more safeguard measures."

(Editing by Yoko Nishikawa)

Guangdong villagers sue Zijin Mining for 170 million yuan

People's Daily

15 February 2011

Zijin Mining Group Co, China's top gold producer, is facing claims filed by 852 villagers from Guangdong province for 170 million yuan for damage resulting from a series of toxic spills

Zijin, which had enjoyed a reputation as one of China's premier mining firms and has mining interests overseas, has run into frequent trouble with failing dams.

In September last year, the firm halted production at a tin mine in southern Guangdong province after a leak in the mine's residue pool caused by heavy rains had flooded nearby villages and killed several villagers.

Zijin authorities said in December last year that the company would pay to help victims of the accident. According to the company, it accepted a provincial government report that found it and one of the firm's subsidiaries responsible for the fatal dam collapse caused by safety and construction violations, which were aggravated by a typhoon.

Zijin was also fined 30 million yuan, 4.5 million U.S. dollars, by a court in Fujian Province for a major pollution accident last year.

The toxic spill in July at the company's Zijinshan gold and copper mine poisoned thousands of fish, causing losses of 22.2 million yuan, and also polluted drinking water for tens of thousands of people.

Zijin was ordered to pay the fine by the Xinluo District Court in Longyan City on Sunday, according to a filing from the company, which is listed in Shanghai and Hong Kong, on Monday.

The court allowed a deduction of the administrative fine of 9.56 million yuan imposed by Fujian's environmental protection authority, which Zijin has already paid.

According to the court, Zijin violated national environmental regulations and "did not adequately focus on environmental protection and safety issues in its production" or resolve existing problems, "which led to leaking of dangerous waste into the Ting River."

Five managers and employees directly responsible for the incident were sentenced to imprisonment of up to four years and six months and were also ordered to pay fines, according to the Fujian-based company.

China's press watchdog said Zijin also tried to bribe reporters to cover up the toxic spill.

Zijin Mining sued for $26 mln after dam breach-Xinhua


17 February 2011

BEIJING - The Zijin Mining Group, one of China's biggest gold producers, is being sued for 170 million yuan ($25.8 million) after a tailing dam collapsed and killed 22 people last year, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The local court in the city of Xinyi, where the disaster occurred, said 800 lawsuits had already been filed by residents and claims against the company could eventually amount to 300 million yuan, Xinhua said.

A total of 523 homes were destroyed in Xinyi in the southeastern province of Guangdong in September last year after the tailing dam at a tin mine collapsed under the onslaught of a typhoon.

A government investigation into the disaster in December placed the blame firmly on the company, which was accused of breaching dam construction regulations.

The company was also fined $1.4 million in October last year after 9,000 tonnes of toxic waste water from one of its gold mines seeped into a river in Fujian on China's southeast coast

Hong Kong and Shanghai-listed Zijin Mining said last month its net profit for 2010 was likely to rise by as much as 40 percent because of price increases as well as higher copper and zinc output over the year.

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by David Holmes) ($1=6.588 Yuan)

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