China's top smelting province to cut output in several industries in clean air push

BEIJING (Reuters) - Cities in China’s eastern province of Anhui are issuing plans to curb production in the steelmaking, non-ferrous smelting, cement and coal-fired power sectors over the coming winter in a drive to meet a politically crucial air pollution target.

FILE PHOTO: A worker welds reinforcement bars at a site of a highway bridge under construction in Hefei, Anhui province, China. REUTERS/Stringer

Anhui, a key non-ferrous smelting province, took the initiative to curb output even though it has been excluded from Beijing’s winter smog “battleplan” applying to 28 cities in the smog-prone northern region.

The step comes after the province failed to meet its target of reducing hazardous air pollutants, known as PM 2.5, in the first seven months of this year.

In 11 of 15 cities in the province, the average PM 2.5 kept rising despite efforts to eliminate polluting coal-fired boilers and vehicles.

The city of Tongling, home to one of the country’s largest copper smelters, Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group Holdings, has asked some major cement, smelting, steel pelletising and chemical firms to cut capacity by 30 percent, according to a statement seen by Reuters and confirmed by people with knowledge of the matter.

The output reduction will take effect from October 1 until the end of this year.

The statement also identified seven companies in the coke, cement, non-ferrous smelting and stone-mining sectors that must shut during the winter, including projects at two subsidiaries of Tongling Nonferrous Metals.

“We have received notice from local authorities,” said a senior official at Tongling Nonferrous Metals who asked not to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

“Environmental protection won’t be a temporary method in China, instead, it will be a long-lasting policy,” he said.

Tongling Nonferrous Metals currently has 2.05 million tonnes of copper resources, 1.35 million tonnes of annual copper smelting capacity and 380,000 tonnes of comprehensive copper processing capacity.

The provincial government asked local authorities to draw up detailed schemes to improve their air quality before the end of August. Some cities, including Xuancheng, Liu’an, Anqing and Chizhou, have published their plans.

Anhui has pledged to keep its PM 2.5 concentration below 54 micrograms per cubic meter this year. In the first seven months, the average concentration was 58.5, according to data from the local environmental protection department.

Reporting by Muyu Xu and Tom Daly; Editing by Adrian Croft