International Steel Mills

Environmental Concerns Continue to Drive Shutdowns of China Steel Mills

Written by Sandy Williams

China’s Hebei province is cracking down on steel operations in the region by imposing “special emission restrictions.”

Mills in the province have until September 1, 2017 to comply with new air pollution standards for pollution. Failure to do so could result in fines, mandated reduction in output, or total closure.

In a notice issued on October 13, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said fines against all polluting companies were up 11 percent in the first 8 months of the year exceeding $72.6 million. Production facilities were sealed at 4,456 companies during the period and 1,880 companies had operations suspended due to “excessive pollution and illegal discharging.” The Environmental Protection Law places no upper limits on fines and, in extreme cases, violators responsible for pollution can be detained.

Despite efforts to curb steelmaking capacity and shut down inefficient mills, steel production in the province rose 1.3 percent to 188.3 million tonnes last year. Hebei has pledged to reduce crude steel capacity by 60 million tonnes and coal production capacity by 40 million tonnes between 2014 and 2017.

Although some mills have been shut down, a recent tour by the Ministry of Environmental Protection revealed illegal production expansion in the area. Reuters reports that the provincial government has “uncovered 1,173 illegal projects in the steel sector, involving 93 companies.”

Hebei is known for its critical smog levels as China’s biggest steel producing area. According to the Ministry, six of the 10 most polluted cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region in the first three quarters of 2016 were in the Hebei province.

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