Shanxi enforces fresh restrictions on mineral production

By Yoke Wong
Published: Friday, 05 May 2017

Key refractory mineral producing region Shanxi, China has implemented new, tougher environmental rules restricting non-ferrous mining and smelting operations in the province in early May. The new policy is set to slash refractory-grade bauxite output, which had already been impacted by anti-pollution checks since last year.


Shanxi, a main refractory-mineral producing region in China, announced new environmental measures to tackle the soil pollution caused by mining and smelting activities on 4 May.   

According to Shanxi provincial government, the measures will strengthen the monitoring of soil pollution in the province as part of the implementation of "Soil Prevention Action Plan" in 2017. Under the plan, new expansion in the non-ferrous smelting industry around residential, school, medical and retirement homes area will be strictly prohibited.

Furthermore, there will be strict assessments of the environmental impact of industries that emit controlled pollutants, which includes non-ferrous metal mining and smelting, chemical, coking, electroplating, tannery, pesticides, lead-acid batteries production etc. Applications from the above industries will be required to elaborate on the environmental impact on soil as well as proposed precautions taken regarding pollution.           

The move is part of Beijing’s ongoing efforts to clean up the environment, and initial inspections have been underway since July 2016.

China-based suppliers also told IM this week of the wide-spread, "crazy" shut down of existing facilities that have not meet the strict environmental standards. According to the suppliers, the authorities have started enforcing the draconian rules as early as end-April.

According to one China-based supplier, all Chinese plants, factories producing anything, including bauxite, magnesite, brown fused alumina etc. have to implement immediately the following:

  • All operations can only use gas or, and electricity for energy supply. No coal or coke is allowed. 
  • Plants have to install an approved external on-line monitoring systematic dust control system, 
  • Companies must install an approved external on-line monitoring system for flue gas de-sulphurisation in the plants.

"If not all 3 above [steps are taken], they [will be] closed until they do. This time, it’s not a joke, the government is really doing it," he added.

This latest round of anti-pollution checks was expected to cut bauxite production dramatically, which will severely impact supply to refractories producers globally. Bauxite prices in China were this week impacted by the news.

Shanxi accounts for up to 90% of global refractory minerals supply, supplying the majority of calcined bauxite in the world, according to one major Chinese supplier. 

While there is no official export data, one Europe-based distributor claimed China exports up to one million tonnes of bauxite in 2016, with shipments to Europe, Turkey and North Africa accounting for half the volume. While another Europe-based trader estimate Europe imports about 350,000 tonnes of bauxite from China.    

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