Over 70% of steelmakers located in Northern China were found to be incompliant with pollutant-discharging standards, a Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) official said.

The MEP examined 298 steelworks in north China earlier this year, and found that 70% of them discharge more pollutants than permitted and some have no pollution treatment facilities installed.

Others have installed pollutant-treatment facilities but were not operating them at the required level. 70% of desulphurising facilities were not in continuous operation. Some facilities are turn on at 8.00am and off at 8.00 pm.

The cost of environmental protection standards adds about RMB 100 ($16.3) to the production cost of every tonne of crude steel, while the profit of many steelmakers is now less than RMB 100/t. Therefore, many steelworks take the risk of making savings by not implementing environmental protection measures.

North China has about 350Mt steel production capacity, with an actual output of 289Mt a year. Steelmaking, marked as high pollution, high energy consumption and high resources consumption, is a major source of air pollution in the region.

Among the top most polluted cities during the third quarter 2013 released by the MEP, eight are located in North China. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) requires North China provinces to cut iron and steel production capacity by over 100t within the next five years.

The NDRC makes the capacity elimination plan but does not have the enforcement power in law. In the meantime, local governments seek revenue from the steelmakers so they lack the motivation to close steel production.

The MEP plans to do surprise checks on high-pollution plants in North China in late October and early November, without informing them beforehand.

Source: China Metals e-mail chinametal@xinhua.org