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Environment

Some Hebei steelmakers breaching shutdown orders: China ministry

BEIJING (Reuters) - Steelmakers in China’s Hebei province have built new plants in contravention of state measures aimed at tackling overcapacity, and have kept mills running that should have been shut down, China’s pollution watchdog said on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) said Hebei, home to much of China’s heavy industry, had made some progress in curbing smog and improving water quality, but it was still not putting enough pressure on local governments to meet environmental standards and shut down polluting industries.

In a notice posted on its website (www.mep.gov.cn), the ministry singled out firms in the major steelmaking city of Tangshan for illegally expanding ferroalloy production capacity.

It said “fraudulent practices” continued to take place, while new power plants were also being approved in the province despite Hebei’s plans to cut coal consumption.

China has been pushing to cut overcapacity in its steel industry, but a jump in steel prices has encouraged many producers to ramp up production, potentially exacerbating a global steel glut that has sparked trade friction.

Hebei produces around a quarter of China’s steel, and according to official rankings is home to seven of the country’s 10 smoggiest cities.

Although the province has been on the frontline of China’s “war on pollution”, the environment in some of its regions had continued to deteriorate, the ministry said.

From 2013 to 2015, the province shut down 200 illegal enterprises and detained 123 people for breaching environmental laws, the ministry said.

The province pledged to shed 60 million tonnes of outdated steel capacity over the 2013-2017 period, and also aims to slash coal consumption by 40 million tonnes a year over the four years as part of its efforts to improve air quality.

Hebei’s total crude steel capacity stood at 286 million tonnes in 2014 and it aims to bring that down to 200 million tonnes by 2020. It produced 188.3 million tonnes last year, up 1.3 percent from 2014 and amounting to 23.4 percent of the national total.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Richard Pullin

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