China raps state miner Minmetals for renewed environmental failures

Credit: REUTERS/Bobby Yip

BEIJING, May 11 (Reuters) - China's environment ministry on Monday called on China Minmetals Corp CHMIN.UL to improve implementation of environmental protection measures and oversight of subsidiaries in a less than glowing report on the state-run metals producer's compliance.

As it looks to clean up heavy industry in China, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has in the past reserved sharp criticism for Minmetals, China's top diversified metals miner, and last year labelled a unit of the company a "repeat offender" with regard to environmental breaches.

Public rebukes against metal producers by the ministry and its predecessor, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, date back to at least 2013 when rice in China's Hunan province, a key production base for Minmetals, were contaminated with the toxic heavy metal cadmium. []

Feedback from the government's latest environmental inspection on Minmetals, which was launched in July 2019, noted the group had made progress in recent years but "the urgency, arduousness and long-term understanding" of environmental protection does not go deep enough, a ministry statement said.

"There is still a gap between the status quo of protection work and the leading ... role that central government enterprises should play," it added.

Minmetals is one of two state-owned enterprises subject to a comprehensive central government audit into environmental compliance, along with China National Chemical Corp. Such audits are usually reserved for provincial governments.

Among the Minmetals violations cited by the latest review was allowing rare earths unit Ganxian Hongjin Rare Earth Ltd Co to expand its production capacity without approval. Ganxian Hongjin was accused of a series of environmental offences last August.

It said that Minmetals units had been hit with more than 120 environmental penalties across 11 Chinese provinces since 2015. Some subsidiaries refused to accept or co-operate with local inspections, it added.

While Minmetals has set energy-saving and emissions reduction targets for 2019-21, there are no specific measures on how to implement them, the report said.

Minmetals, whose subsidiaries also operate projects outside China in countries including Peru, Australia and Papua New Guinea, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ministry's findings.

(Reporting by Tom Daly; additional reporting by David Stanway in Shanghai Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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