China Minmetals to invest 10 billion yuan to upgrade smelters in Hunan province

BEIJING (Reuters) - China Minmetals Corp (CHMIN.UL) plans to invest 10 billion yuan ($1.50 billion) to upgrade its copper, lead and zinc smelting facilities Hunan province, a spokesman confirmed on Monday, after a recent rebuke from the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP).

The company will invest in new smelting technology starting this month that eliminates the discharge of industrial wastewater, Huasheng Online, a website run by the Hunan provincial government, reported on Friday, citing Huang Guoping, chairman of China Minmetals Nonferrous Metals Co.

The company will invest in facilities in the Shuikoushan area, in the south of Hunan which is located in south-central China, Huasheng reported.

The pledge comes after MEP inspectors found that riverside zinc smelters belonging to local Minmetals unit Hunan Shuikoushan Nonferrous Metals Group Co were causing direct pollution to the environment, Huasheng said.

In a statement late last month, the MEP accused nonferrous metals producers in Hunan, most of them Minmetals subsidiaries, of being “big corporate bullies” that had failed to address a series of environmental violations.

A China Academy of Sciences survey published in 2015 said 10 million hectares of China’s arable land is contaminated with heavy metals, mostly in big metal producing regions like Hunan, Jiangxi, Yunnan, Sichuan and Guangxi.

Many of the problems have arisen as a result of abandoned mines and smelting plants, with scientists estimating that more than 100,000 firms have relocated since 2001 and left behind huge amounts of dangerous waste.

Reporting by Tom Daly; additional reporting by David Stanway in SHANGHAI; Editing by Christian Schmollinger