MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Suffer the children - yet again

Published by MAC on 2009-10-19

Another Chinese lead poisoning zone identified

Yet another major source of child lead poisoning was identified by Chinese health authorities last week - this time in the country's most populated province, Henan.

In response, according to a local communist party official, all but three of the 35 offending electrolytic lead plants have been closed down. All older children within a 1,000 metre radius of the smelters have been moved out of the area; and under-six year olds were transferred to a local hotel at government expense.

Commendable though these actions may be, the regime's policy towards future lead production seems somewhat contradictory. See:

And the state's avowed intention to close down dangerous metals plants leaves a great deal to be desired. See:

For an earlier story on China's lead scourge, see:

China's Lead Smelters Poison Hundreds of Children


14 October 2009

BEIJING, China - Blood tests on 968 children in China's largest lead smelting area have shown "excessive lead levels," the official Chinese news agency Xinhua said Tuesday.
Jiyuan City in the central province of Henan has a 52-year history of lead production, but the city's health bureau started testing children only after lead poisoning was exposed in a neighboring province.

Since August 20, the health bureau has tested 2,743 children under the age of 14, who lived near three smelters, Wei Zongchang, director of the Jiyuan health bureau told Xinhua. More than one-third of the children tested had high levels of lead in their blood.

Yang Anguo, board chairman of Yuguang Gold and Lead Group, China's largest lead producer, said, "We do bear responsibility for the pollution. Some pollution has accumulated over the past 20 years or more and the plant is too near homes."

Established in 1957, the Yuguang Gold and Lead Group is publicly traded on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from damage to the brain and nervous system; behavior and learning problems, such as hyperactivity; slow growth; hearing problems and headaches.

While lead exposure is also harmful to adults, lead is more dangerous to children because children's growing bodies absorb more lead and children's brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead than those of adults.

Duan Xizhong, secretary of the Communist Party of China Jiyuan committee, said the city government has suspended production at 32 of the 35 electrolytic lead plants and also the production lines of three other major plants. When they will restart production is still uncertain. Environment protection inspectors were stationed in the three
largest plants - Yuguang Gold and Lead Group, Wanyang Smeltery Group and
Jinli Smelting - he said.

All children living within 1,000 meters of the smelters have been moved away at government expense, said Duan. Some children under six are living in a local hotel, and the government has opened a kindergarten for them.

After local villagers demonstrated in front of the smelters in September, more than 200
government officials have been sent out to explain the situation in

Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved

Top China lead smelter acknowledges poisoning role

Lucy Hornby, Reuters

13 October 2009

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's largest lead smelting firm has acknowledged partial responsibility after nearly 1,000 children living near some of China's biggest lead plants showed excessive levels of lead in their blood, the Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday.

Some plants and production lines in Jiyuan, Henan Province, have been suspended since the poisoning of children living near smelters in other provinces became public in late August, triggering protests by parents in several regions. The area is home to China's biggest cluster of lead smelters. "We do bear responsibility for the pollution," Xinhua quoted Yang Anguo, board chairman of Yuguang Gold and Lead as saying. "Some pollution has accumulated over the past 20 years or more and the plant is too near homes."

Blood tests showed 968 children -- out of 2,743 tested -- under 14 living near three major smelters had high levels of lead in their blood, Xinhua said, citing Wei Zongchang, director of the Jiyuan health bureau. "Mass incidents" -- or riots and protests -- sparked by environmental problems have been rising at a rate of 30 percent per year, according to China's environment minister.

At the same time, the boom in metals prices has made investment in mines and smelters very profitable, and dangerously polluting plants have sprung up across the Chinese countryside. Local officials, who worry about losing a large taxpayer and employer and may even have a stake in the projects, often turn a blind eye to safety and environmental violations.

A child who ingests large amounts of lead may develop anemia, muscle weakness and brain damage. Where poisoning occurs, it is usually gradual. The average level of lead in the blood of Chinese children is five times the acceptable level in the United States, according to statistics from the China Daily.

Jiyuan officials cited by Xinhua attributed the poisoning to past accumulation of lead due to decades of smelting.

Yuguang, as well as Wanyang Lead and Jinli Lead, each closed a 50,000-tonne-a-year designed sintering smelting capacity since August 24, officials said last month. The plants had been operating above their designed capacity, bringing their combined operating capacity to nearly 240,000 tonnes a year.

Authorities had also shut 32 small refined lead producers in the area, after children living near a lead and zinc smelter owned by Dongling Group in Shaanxi province also tested for high lead levels.

Lead prices spiked to their highest point this year in early September, when the Jiyuan plant closures were first announced.


China Yuguang says to halt 4,000 T/mth lead sinter


9 October 2009

SHANGHAI - China's Henan Yuguang Gold & Lead Co Ltd, the country's top lead producer, said on Saturday the smelter would shut down its sintering system which can produce 4,000 tonnes of lead bullions.

Yuguang said the sintering system would stop production for improvements after a regular overhaul. The smelter would enlarge its purchases of lead bullions, used to produce refined lead, to fill up the deficiency due to the closure, it said.

Yuguang did not give a timeframe for the closure in the statement posted on the official Shanghai Securities News.

Tension and unrest are growing in China as a lead poisoning scandal engulfs a growing number of provinces, threatening further cuts in supply from the world's top producer of the metal.

Yuguang, which has an annual capacity of 300,000 tonnes of refined lead, was one of the Chinese lead smelters that stopped production following lead poisoning cases in Shaanxi and Hunan provinces since August. (Reporting by Alfred Cang and Edmund Klamann; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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