Monday, July 19, 2010

No use crying over spilled melamine

OK, it wasn't melamine tainted milk, and maybe it is worth crying over. Picky, picky. Anyway, here's a couple of items from Guambat's former daily read.

Full-scale fiasco
YOU know that massive pollution disaster that killed millions of fish? If your answer to that was ''Yeah, yeah, BP's oil well in the Gulf of Mexico - what's new?'' you would be wrong.

A mining company in China was last week accused of killing the equivalent of 1.89 million kilograms of fish by allowing waste water from its copper refinery to get into a reservoir and river in Fujian province.

Where BP looks like having to pay billions in reparations for the damage its uncapped well on the gulf floor has caused (thanks to having the blowtorch of public scrutiny applied) Zijin Mining Group looks like getting off somewhat lighter - at least in a financial sense.

Reports from China's official Xinhua News Agency suggest that Zijin is being required only to fix the problem and compensate locals with an offer of three yuan for every kilogram of dead fish. That makes the potential payout about 6 million yuan, or a little less than $A1 million. Zijin is a $A13 billion company.

The Zijinshan mine, where the spill occurred, is China's largest goldmine. Zijin revealed the problem on July 3 and blamed weather conditions - excess rain had caused breaches of the waterproofing layers in a tailings dam, leading to water containing copper residues flowing into the Mianhuatan Reservoir and nearby Ting River.

Ten days later, Zijin released a more detailed statement, estimating that about 9100 cubic metres of waste water (about four Olympic-size swimming pools) containing ''acidic copper'' flowed into the Ting. It said the problem had been fixed and that the waters had returned to ''normal''.

A day later came the language that BP executives should note: "The accident reflects some deeper issues about the company," Zhao Jugang, a Zijin spokesman told Bloomberg. "We earlier said that the accident was a result of heavy rains, but it's not just that. We think closure of the plant and an investigation are very necessary."

Zijin revealed in May that the inspectors had been around between October and November last year, and that at Zijinshan the problem was that liquid run-off from discarded ore was flowing directly into a reservoir (not at that stage the Mianhuatan) without being treated.

While it is a listed company, its two largest shareholders are state-owned and hold more than 40 per cent of the company. In 2008 and 2010, both forced resolutions on to Zijin's annual meeting agenda that pushed the company to pay dividends and make donations for community wellbeing.

That those responsible for running the mine, along with the environmental manager, have now been arrested suggests Zijin is about to be made an example of China's commitment to the international community on overhauling its environmental behaviour.

China cleans up oil spill
Authorities in northeastern China have mobilised 1,000 vessels to help clean up an oil spill in the Yellow Sea caused by a weekend pipeline explosion and fire, the government said on Monday.

Dozens of oil-skimming vessels were working to remove the slick off the port city of Dalian following Friday night's accident which spilled an estimated 1,500 tonnes of crude into the sea, press reports said.

Another 1,000 local fishing vessels have been ordered to aid the clean-up operation, the Dalian government said in a statement on its website.

The spill, which initially covered 50 sq km had been reduced to 45 sq km as of Monday, the official China Central Television (CCTV) reported on its news website.

The Dalian government said the last remnants of the fire had finally been put out and it declared a "decisive victory" against the spill, but did not explicitly say whether the spill had been completely halted.

Two pipelines exploded at an oil storage depot belonging to China National Petroleum Corp near Dalian's Xingang Harbour in Liaoning province, triggering a spectacular blaze that burned throughout the weekend.

CNPC is the country's biggest oil company

See also, Zijin Expansion Stymied by China Gold Industry's Worst Spill in Two Years
It was the worst accident in the Chinese gold mining since July 2008, when runoff from a Zhongjin Gold Corp. site in Dandong poisoned the water supply of 210,000.

“The company will have to focus on cleaning up, and their expansion plans in and out of China may be put on a backburner” for the next year or two, said Helen Lau, a Hong Kong-based analyst at UOB-Kay Hian Ltd.

Zijin Mining Group Co., China’s biggest gold producer, planned for two big foreign acquisitions this year. Chen planned to make two foreign acquisitions this year, after spending $200 million to buy convertible notes in Glencore International AG, the Swiss-based commodity trader that’s the biggest in the world.

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