China ministry raps Chinalco over 'lax' environmental protection work

Feb 1 (Reuters) - China’s environment ministry on Monday criticised state-owned metals producer Chinalco for “lax” and “slow” implementation of anti-pollution measures and gave it 30 days to submit a rectification plan to the government.

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment had announced a one-month audit into Chinalco, or Aluminum Corp of China, and other government-run entities in August last year.

Presenting its feedback to Chinalco management on Monday, the inspection team pointed out that while the company has done a lot of work in environmental protection, investing more than 13 billion yuan ($2 billion) since 2016 and achieving some results, it is still falling short of the expected level.

Chinalco and its affiliates “have not paid enough attention to preventing and resolving environmental risks,” while progress on some key tasks is “seriously lagging,” the ministry said in a statement.

A reservoir at a Chinalco unit in Chongqing that refines aluminium raw material alumina was found to be still leaking the toxic waste byproduct red mud in two places despite previous calls for action, it said, while inadequate anti-seepage measures at rare earth mines were also identified.

Chinalco is best known as an aluminium maker but its group companies also produce copper, rare earths and - after Chinalco took over Yunnan Metallurgical Group in 2018 - zinc.

Some environmental problems in Yunnan were not discovered during Chinalco’s M&A due diligence and the company was slow to deal with them, the ministry said.

A Chinalco spokesman said the company would increase investment and “actively rectify” the problems identified.

$1 = 6.4629 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Kirsten Donovan