February 1, 2018 / 9:25 AM / 23 days ago

China's steel city mulls extending winter cuts; Hebei denies

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Hebei province denied news reports on Thursday that it will extend steel production curbs imposed for the winter season, as sources told Reuters that authorities in the region’s top steelmaking city Tangshan was considering such a move.

The government for the northern province issued a statement on its Weibo account refuting local media reports that it would prolong restrictions on steel mills’ operations by two months until mid-May.

“Hebei’s provincial government and air pollution administrative bureau have never asked for the extension. Hebei will strictly carry out the production restriction issued by central government,” the statement said.

Under Beijing’s winter production restrictions, steel mills were ordered to cut output by up to 50 percent from mid-November to mid-March, as part of the country’s efforts to combat air pollution.

Three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that Tangshan, which is China’s largest steelmaking city and in Hebei province, is discussing prolonging the curbs after the traditional winter heating season ends.

They declined to be named as they are not authorized to speak to the media.

Hebei produced 191 million tonnes of crude steel last year, 12 percent of China’s total. Tangshan accounts for more than half of that, more than the United States and is routinely listed among China’s 10 cities most affected by smog.

The move would help Beijing deepen its efforts to cut smog and reduce overcapacity in its bloated smoke-stack industries.

It is not clear how long or by how much steel mills in the city may be forced to curtail production.

A spokesman with the Tangshan government declined to comment on the plan and said the city would obey environmental rules.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection did not respond to requests for comment.

On Wednesday, the MEP said it was drawing up plans for tougher curbs on smog for the next three years, after a five-year crackdown on pollution helped it attain air quality targets last month.

Reporting by Ruby Lian, Muyu Xu and Josephine Mason; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and David Evans

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