Heilongjiang and Shandong provinces claim graphite clean-up success

By Albert Li
Published: Thursday, 27 November 2014

- Graphite miners have “changed attitudes” - Crackdown on graphite pollution last year has been successful - Pollution still a problem due to other industries

Chinese graphite-producing provinces Heilongjiang and Shandong have released statements indicating that their efforts to clean up the graphite industry in the country have been successful.

The environmental protection bureau in Jixi city, Heilongjiang and Pingdu city, Shangdong, both said that they have changed attitudes in their areas, since they began to crack down on pollutant companies last year.

Pingdu, Shandong 

Officers from Pingdu claim that the action implemented by them last year has been completed.

Pingdu is China’s oldest flake graphite producing region and has a capacity of 100,000tpa. The area is second only to Heilongjiang province in terms of Chinese production power, which has a capacity of 280,000tpa and produced 120,000 to 140,000tpa in 2013.

Up to 55 miners and processors of graphite in the town of Pingdu, located in the east-coast province of Shandong, were ordered by the local government last December to stop production after failing to improve wastewater, dust and gas emissions.

Of the 74 graphite companies that were inspected following the clampdown, 59 have passed the examination set by the environmental protection bureau. 

The remaining 15 includes eight companies deemed too heavily polluting to continue operating, while another seven are expected to be shut down after submission to the Pingdu government. 

Industry violations included the illegal discharging of waste water during the inspection period.

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Pollution is still an issue in Shandong, as this image of Zibo shows, but graphite companies have cleaned up their act, the environmental protection office claims.
Marc van der Chijs via Flickr 


Jixi, Heilongjiang

Environmental officers in Jixi meanwhile claim to have achieved "double level-ups of environmental protection and production capacity" in the 19 companies it assessed in the Hengshan and Mashan districts.

"We used to be afraid of the bureau coming here, now we welcome them there," the Jinyu Graphite Company of Mashan district, said in a statement.

"[The environmental protection bureau] helps us by finding and fixing problems of pollution and waste. We are now fully supported in policy, technology and fund aspects when cooperating with the government."

"We have a big warehouse and when we moved source material, nearly two tonnes of graphite dust fell off every day, we used to leave it (...) but now we have modern dust collecting equipment, and at least one tonne of high quality graphite is recycled from the falling dust each day."

Similar dust-collecting equipment is being used by other companies in Jixi, which the agency says is why the nearby hills are now green and not covered in a thick dust.

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Hegang City builds graphite industrial park

The city of Hegang, located in Heilongjiang province, the leading graphite producing region in China, has built a graphite industrial park. 

Local government officials have been trying to draw in large companies for investment into the city, and thus far, China Railway Resource Co. Ltd and BTR New Energy Materials Co. have opened facilities in the park.

Prospective entrants must have a project with a fixed asset investment of over Chinese reminbi (Rmb) 100m ($16.34m*)

China Railway Resource told local reporters that it hopes its project will begin construction next year.

Battery materials producer Shanghai Shanshan Tech Co. Ltd met with government , telling the local media that it hopes Hegang, to which it ascribed a "resource advantage", will work together with Shanshan Tech.

Two graphite companies fined 

The Heilongjiang Provincial Safety Commission has listed 11 companies that have "serious potential safety hazards", including two graphite companies, which have been fined accordingly.

Inspections at Jixi City Longsheng Graphite Co., based in the Mashan district Graphite Industrial Park, revealed that the company’s tailing pond did not comply with safety specifications. Two sedimentation ponds were also too close to the tailing pond.

The company has been told that it must rectify the problem as soon as possible, and was forced to evacuate personnel from its 

tailing pond and cease its use until it is safe.

Elsewhere, Luobei County Yunshan Graphite Mining Co. was found through investigation to have carried out explosions that had not been properly approved. The company was required to stop its blasting programme, and was fined Rmb29,000 ($3,740).

Nuclear graphite discussions

The 15th International Nuclear Graphite Specialists Meeting was held in Hanzhou city of Zhejiang province in November. Around 120 specialists from around the world met to discuss, among other things, the Chinese nuclear industry.

Approximately 29 nuclear power generation systems are currently under construction.

Sinosteel Shanghai Advanced Graphite Material Co. Ltd has been trying to break into the industry, and has invested into research on isostatic methods of pressing graphite. This is a long term plan; the  company has seen some production of pressed graphite since February 2012.

High temperature gas-cooled reactors require high purity nuclear grade graphite moderators, and Sinosteel’s material has passed the static state physics and specification tests for this. It is now undergoing testing regarding its irradiation properties.

Industry event attendees told "China should protect flake graphite"

While the graphite industry in China is large — the country is the largest producer in the world — the disordered and scattered existence of over 1,000 mining companies has resulted in heavy pollution and high energy consumption, in addition to low resource utilisation and production rates.

Mingke Fu of the Chinese Mining Association told reporters at an industry event that he believes there is a chance for the industry to shift to reducing costs, while protecting graphite — particularly flake, rather than amorphous grades — and improving processing by consolidating producers.

Industry observers have suggested that China should set a distinction between flake and amorphous graphite, with flake being regarded as a strategic mineral, rather than a third category mineral. 

The Chinese Ministry of Finance should increase funding for strategic mineral research, delegates were told. Export volume protections on large flake graphite were suggested, though the difficulty of restrictions complying with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules were noted.

A strategic mineral classification would result in a national development strategy for the development of the flake graphite industry in the country.

Mingke also suggested to attendees that the Chinese Ministry of Finance should remove the tax refund on spherical graphite exports.

*Conversion made November 2014