Articles in Category: Public Policy

The UK government recently announced an asset freeze on London-headquartered metal and mining group Evraz. Authorities claim that Evraz is receiving benefits or support from the Russian government to conduct business in strategic and economic sectors. True or not, the freeze has broad implications for global steel production.

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NIZHNY TAGIL, RUSSIA – JANUARY 01, 2014: Night view of the main entrance of the plant NTMK company Evraz. NTMK plant is the main enterprise of the city of Nizhny Tagil

Evraz Investigated for “Threatening” Ukrainian Stability

HM Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) went public with the move against Evraz on Thursday, May 5. As in similar situations, the action was filed under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2018.

This specific law allows governments to freeze funds and economic resources of problematic persons, entities, or bodies. In this case, it refers to those involved in destabilizing Ukraine or undermining/threatening the country’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, or independence.

Evraz has steel making assets in Russia that include the Nizhniy Tagil (NTMK) and Western Siberia (Zapsib) plants. The OFSI also noted that the company controls coking coal mines in Raspadskaya and Yuzhkuzbassugol and an iron ore mind at Kachkanarsky.

However, the information made no mention of Evraz’s Mezhegeiugol coking coal mine in eastern Siberia or its vanadium production operations.

Evraz Denies Any Wrongdoing Despite Abramovich Relationship

Freezing the assets of companies like Evraz has played a large role in how Western countries and the EU are punishing Russia for its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. Indeed, back on Mar. 10, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority officially suspended the group’s shares on the London Stock Exchange.

The earlier move was in response to the national government placing Roman Abramovich on its list of sanctioned individuals. Well known as the owner of Chelsea Football Club, Abramovich holds the single largest stake in Evraz (28.64%).

At that time, Evraz denied any involvement in actions against Ukraine. They have since reiterated claims that they mainly produce materials for construction and infrastructure.

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North American Subsidiaries Still in the Green

Evraz NTMK poured 4.1 million metric tons of crude steel in 2018, from which it rolled about 4.6 million metric tons of finished product. The manufactured items included rails, long products, rings for mechanical engineering, and grinding balls. According to the group’s website, the plant also produced semis for tubular production.

Meanwhile, Zapsib’s product assortment includes long section steel and continuously cast and hot rolled slabs. The plant also produced continuously cast and hot rolled section billets, rails, and downstream products. In 2016, Zapsib produced 6.9 million tons of crude steel and 6.3 million metric tons of steel products.

The OFSI did note that Evraz could continue to operate with its North American subsidiaries. Allotments include “payments to or from those subsidiaries under any obligations or contracts” and “payments to or from any third party under any obligations or contracts.” It also includes the “receipt of payments made by the North American Subsidiaries for audit services.” The OFSI also added that “Evraz North America is permitted to pay for the audit services referred to in the previous sentence.”

One source noted that many Russian companies are trying to put distance between their overseas assets and their owners in Moscow. “Everyone is separating or thinking about spinning off assets abroad into separate divisions,” that analyst added. Only time will tell if their efforts will pay off.

A Major North American Producer

Evraz North America’s headquarters are in Chicago, but the subsidiary has a welded pipe mill in Oregon (Evraz Portland) and a hot end and rail mill in Colorado (Evraz Pueblo).

In total, Evraz North America has six plants spread throughout the United States and Canada. The wholly-owned subsidiary can produce up to 2.3 million metric tons per year of crude steel via electric arc furnaces at Pueblo and Regina alone. The former is located in Colorado, while the latter is situated in Saskatchewan.

Besides having hot ends, the Pueblo plant can roll long products that include rail as well as wire rod and rebar in both coils and seamless pipes. Meanwhile, the Regina plant produces line pipe from its own rolled plate products.

Other Canadian sites, such as Camrose, Calgary, and Red Deer,  produce casings and tubings for Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG) as well as straight- and spiral-weld line pipes. Evraz North America’s Portland plant also produces line pipe from the plate and hot coil it rolls on site

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The Stainless Steel MMI indicates that prices are holding fast.

This, as cold-rolled stainless imports to the U.S. have averaged above 40,000 MT per month for several straight months. Meanwhile, U.S. flat-rolled stainless producers have run at full capacity for over a year now. Still, they continue to place premiums on products they simply don’t want to make.

For NAS and Outokumpu Calvert, that category includes basically anything that is not 304, 304L, 316L 2B (or 2D) base gauge or 48 & 60 wide standard mechanicals. On the other hand, A.K. is focused on the ferritic side for automotive and highly selective about alloys that contain any nickel.

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Trouble is Brewing Among Suppliers

There are few options for supplying the volumes needed to satisfy the ongoing demand. The extra steel either needs to come from Allegheny & Tsingshan Stainless J.V.’s DRAP (Direct Roll Anneal and Pickle Line), or from imports. However, it can’t come from both.

Market manipulation from Chinese steel producers has only increased in recent years.

Steel workers in China

With CRS import levels so high, the U.S. market simply doesn’t need the tons coming from A&T Stainless’ Midland facility. Indeed, back in March, all of A&T’s December / January 232 exemption petitions for Indonesian hot band were denied.

 

The company claimed they needed “clean” Indonesian band made from nickel pig iron that was free of residual elements. However, the Midland facility previously had no issues using scrap from Allegheny bands as well as other domestic and foreign suppliers.

Concerns over Chinese stainless steel supply

NAS, Outokumpu, and Cleveland-Cliffs vehemently opposed granting A&T Stainless Section 232 exemptions. One of the main concerns was ATI’s J.V. partner Tsingshan, a Chinese military-backed steel conglomerate. Specifically, there were issues with nickel pig iron instead of scrap. On top of that, Tsingshan’s speculative actions regarding nickel almost brought down the LME.

As previously covered, no U.S. or European-based mill would have been able to do what Tsingshan did. On May 3rd, Cris Fuentes, CEO of North American Stainless, issued the following statement to MetalMiner regarding Tsingshan’s actions:

“China’s continued anti-competitive practices and blatant market manipulation at the London Metal Exchange threaten to devastate the American steel industry and its workers, weaken our national security, and slow progress in addressing climate change. As countries across the world work to limit dirty Chinese steel, Beijing has only become more manipulative. The Chinese military-backed steel conglomerate Tsingshan has built sprawling new industrial complexes in Indonesia that can produce 27 times more steel than that country uses in an entire year. These egregious cross-border subsidies (sic) lead to a costly game of whack-a-mole as American regulators struggle to keep pace. Washington policymakers must flex American muscle with new and modernized protections for steel to counter the growing threats from abroad.”

Outokumpu declined to comment.

Comments from A&T Stainless

In a request for comment, Danielle Carlini General Manager, A&T Stainless said via email:

“We are disappointed the U.S. Department of Commerce denied A&T Stainless’s Section 232 tariff exclusion requests. We believe we meet the criteria for an exclusion and had looked forward to serving the needs of the market by bringing employees back to work through restarting idled assets. The Midland DRAP line that was idled in July 2020 will remain idled at this time. I cannot comment for Tsingshan.”

Key points:

  • Allegheny and Tsingshan Stainless have not received 232 exclusions though others have
  • Brokers, master distributors, and even a large service center (which has always had a mix of domestic and import sources) have received exclusions.
  • The stainless steel MMI indicates that prices remain strong.

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There’s something afoot on the rare earths front in China. Specifically, the country recently decided that it wants to tighten its export control laws. The regulation passed about two years ago to stop importing countries from diverting “Chinese products for non-intended use.” In most cases, the “products” refer to rare earth elements, of which China is the world’s biggest producer.

The announcement comes just a few days after news that an American company may have found the largest reserves of rare earth elements in the US. In fact, US-China relations experts are still trying to connect the “geo-political” dots around China’s latest move and its implications.

China currently dominates the global rare earth elements market.

Why Rare Earth Metals and Why Now?

A report from nikkei.com stated that going forward, exporters of Chinese products with potential military applications may have to provide documentation as to their intended use. Apparently, the ultimate goal is to “halt the militarization of sensitive tech.”

The article also reported “concerns” that the regulations would be arbitrarily enforced against countries that have poor diplomatic relations with Beijing. Officials did not name the US directly, of course. Still, it’s no secret that trade relations between the US and China have not been healthy since the Trump administration.

In December of 2020, China finally joined many other countries in passing an Export Control Law. The crux of the legislation gave Beijing control over strategic products and even advanced technology items. The move was widely seen as a response to US restrictions on Chinese IT firms like Huawei Technologies Co.

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Reasons for the Further Tightening of Export Control

According to reports, China’s Ministry of Commerce has published its new export proposal with the intent of soliciting public comment. The regulations are also in line with the “total national security outlook” policy of President Xi Jinping. This includes 11 total areas of security coverage: politics, land, military, economy, culture, society, science and technology, information, ecology, resources, and nuclear.

If and when the proposed regulation becomes law, it will empower the Chinese Government to carry out a “risk assessment” of the country or region receiving the exported products. This would factor in both national security interests as well as foreign policy needs. Export licenses for “high-risk destinations” will also be subjected to even stricter screenings.

The Nikkei report went on to say that rare earth metals could be subject to export controls “depending on how authorities interpret the regulations.” Many of these materials feature in the manufacture of high-performance magnets. However, those importers who alter the “end use”  without permission may find themselves on a regulated list. Repeat offenders may end up subjected to embargoes or even a revocation of their export license.

Risk Assessment and the War in Ukraine

Ostensibly, the new law seeks to prevent the export of dangerous products to terrorist outfits or rogue nations. Still, how China plans to assess the risk level of export partners is not yet clear. Currently, China forbids the transfer of regulated products to third parties without the approval of the government. After Russia invaded Ukraine, China had got some flak for allowing the export of chips used in Russian missiles and spy satellites. There were also reports of US chips being used in missiles after being clandestinely exported via Bulgaria.

There’s a major semiconductor shortage in the world today, and the Ukraine conflict has only intensified US-China trade tensions. According to this report, US officials warned they would impose strict export controls on China should the country try to send semiconductors containing US technology to Ukraine. For this reason, the purported move by China was seen as an illegal attempt to help Russia cope with global sanctions.

Massive mines like this are found in several areas of China

Xinjiang Rare Metals National Mine Park

The Rare Earth Metals Race

A wide range of industries rely on rare earth minerals, including automobiles, transportation, power generation, and defense. In recent decades, US investment in its homegrown chip industry has decreased. This was largely because Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and China were making them far cheaper. Now, the US has decided to halt this reliance, especially when it comes to China.

That’s why the initial discovery report from Wyoming comes as such a happy surprise. According to the data, the rocks there have an unusually high content of several “rare earth” elements: Neodymium, Dysprosium, Praseodymium, and Terbium. All of these are essential for making the magnets used in electric vehicle motors and wind turbines.

American Rare Earths, the company conducting the exploration and analyses, also has holdings in Arizona and Nevada. Combined, all of these could ease US dependence on foreign sources of these key metals. Indeed, China controls roughly 87% of the magnets market, a fact that many US officials are desperate to change.

The US has its Own Ideas

US Senators Tom Cotton & Mark Kelly recently introduced legislation that would establish a rare earth stockpile via the Department of Defense. It would also require defense contractors to stop buying rare earths from China by 2026. This follows an earlier bill introduced by senators Marco Rubio and Cindy Hyde-Smith. The latter’s goal was to provide Department of Energy funding that could support domestic manufacturing of finished rare earth products.

Clearly, for the US, the supply-chain mess, the pandemic, and the Ukraine conflict have served to highlight the importance of rare earth independence. Now, we need only wait to hear the final word on China’s counter-move.

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In our ongoing coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war and its impact on metal prices, the Financial Conduct Authority, the UK’s financial regulator, has suspended trading of Russian steelmaker Evraz’s shares on the London Stock Exchange.

Russian steelmaker Evraz logo

piter2121/Adobe Stock

The move follows the government’s addition of Roman Abramovich to its list of sanctioned individuals.

The MetalMiner team will continue to break down the Russia-Ukraine war and its impact on metals markets during this month’s webinar session scheduled for Wednesday, March 30. 

UK suspends trading of Russian steelmaker Evraz

The suspension became effective from 11:00 a.m., London time, “in order to protect investors pending clarification of the impact of the UK sanctions,” the LSE said on March 10.

A notice from HM Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation stated that Abramovich exercises effective control in Evraz, given his large shareholding in the company as well as those of his associates, whom Abramovich could direct.

Abramovich holds the largest stake in Evraz at 28.64%. Evraz’s non-executive chairman, Alexander Abramov, holds 19.32%. Non-executive director Alexander Frolov holds 9.65%.

“Evraz PLC is or has been involved in providing financial services, or making available funds, economic resources, goods or technology that could contribute to destabilising Ukraine or undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty or independence of Ukraine – which includes potentially supplying steel to the Russian military which may have been used in the production of tanks,” HM Treasury also stated.

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hot rolled steel

niteenrk/Adobe Stock

Continuing our coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its impact on steel prices, aluminum prices and more, the European Union has brought sanctions against two Russian metals magnates on Feb. 28.

The move comes on the heels of Russia’s invasion last week of Ukraine.

This week’s MetalMiner newsletter will include additional analysis on the Russian invasion’s impact on metals markets. 

EU sanctions Russian steel magnates

Alisher Usmanov, a majority shareholder in steelmaking and mining group Metalloinvest via his USM holdings vehicle, as well as Severstal chairman Alexei Mordashov, will both face travel restrictions and have their assets frozen in the 27-member bloc, news reports stated.

Metalloinvest has two steelmaking assets, the Oskol Electrometallurgical Plant (OEMK) and Ural Steel.

USM holdings also owns the Udokan Copper mine, which is under development in eastern Russia’s Zabaykalsky krai. Estimated copper reserves are 26.7 million metric tons, based on JORC classifications.

Mordashov owns 77% of Severstal and was CEO up until 2015. The main plant is Cherepovets, approximately 500 kilometers north of capital city Moscow. The plant can produce 10.5 million metric tons per year of crude steel via BF/BOF and the electric arc furnace routes. It then casts and rolls into longs and flats products.

It was not immediately clear how or if the sanctions would impact operations or exports from the steelmakers.

Russian steel exports depart from the Black Sea ports of Novorossiysk and Tuapse. However, there are unconfirmed reports that ships do not wish to call at those ports.

The sanctions follow moves by the United States, the E.U. and their allies over the weekend to disconnect some Russian banks from the SWIFT network. The network allows for fast cross-border payments.

The Russian Central Bank’s assets are also now frozen to prevent it from accessing its overseas assets.

This month’s MetalMiner Monthly Outlook will also include coverage of the invasion and its impact metals markets, from steel prices to aluminum to this month’s spike in nickel prices. 

Fighting continues

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, fierce fighting raged between Russian and Ukrainian forces in Kharkiv, following the Feb. 24 start of an invasion, which has received near global condemnation. There were also reports of fighting in around the port city of Mariupol, and attacks on capital city Kyiv, MetalMiner heard.

President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 27 ordered Russia’s military to put its nuclear deterrent forces on special alert in response to “aggressive statements” by the West, the BBC reported.

For European buyers tracking the conflict in Ukraine, MetalMiner Insights provides a full suite of European form/alloy/grade prices. 

Although the West issued a new round of sanctions late on Sunday, it remains unclear what effect they will have. The new sanctions, including the prohibition of Russia flying over European airspace, as well as the funding of arms for Ukraine, came on Sunday. Nobody at MetalMiner believed the earlier sanctions through Friday would put an end to the invasion or cause Russia to turnaround and head back home. The additional sanctions announced on Friday, including a freeze of some of President Putin’s and some Russian oligarchs’ assets, still suggest little to no impact.

Perhaps surprisingly, the bravery of the people of Ukraine defending their homeland, has created the biggest impact. It certainly has made Russia look bad.

In two words: oil and gas

With its heavy reliance on Russian oil and gas, Europe simply can’t cut off Russia via sanctions due to its nearly total reliance upon Russian supply. Moreover, the sanction that called for cutting Russia out of the SWIFT banking system also didn’t occur. Germany and Italy put a hard stop to that one and categorically refused to adopt it. However, a compromise solution came into effect over the weekend, kicking out several Russian banks from participating in the SWIFT system.

Many traders think the sanctions are a joke as they report normal dealings with regard to import/export trade. So, business with Russian suppliers still appeared to operate normally as of last week. RusHydro, a Russian bank, named in one of the sanctions, along with Sberbank, used by suppliers in Europe, reports “business as usual,” as well with effectively, no change or impact. Freezing bank transactions and access to western markets will work just like anti-dumping cases – Russia will find plenty of workarounds. Moreover, Russia will run transactions through China if necessary.

Join the MetalMiner team for a 30-minute briefing on the aluminum and carbon steel markets and other key developments from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The webinar runs from 11:00-11:30 central time on Wednesday, March 2.

In fact, China accidentally leaked some information in terms of how the Chinese media will cover the Russian invasion (hint: nothing negative about Russia).

As for a sanction covering US oil…

Surprisingly, the Biden administration did not add a sanction dealing with Russian oil at all. Had the US stopped buying Russian oil completely, that could have created some financial hardship. In addition, by bringing US domestic production back on, that too would help lower the price of oil. By stopping Russian oil imports, and helping tank the market, Russia would struggle to sell oil to China as well. 40% of Russia’s revenue comes from oil and gas which has increased in price nearly 50% from Jan 1 2021.

MetalMiner will include an oil forecast and adjust all long-term forecast ranges for non-ferrous and ferrous metals in its soon-to-be released Annual Outlook Q1 quarterly update.  

In addition, Biden should have issued immediate sanctions against Putin himself, as opposed to waiting a day. Furthermore, the US should also establish sanctions against China for helping Russia.

Putin betted on a gutless West that would not stand up to an invasion. He’s won tactically as of last week. And his latest nuclear threats suggest he feels threatened by how long it has taken to take control of Ukraine. How it pans out in the long term remains unknown. Ukraine is a large country to occupy. The going theory/end state involves the installation of a puppet regime by Moscow with Russia backing out within months. Ukraine will remain as a vassal state under Moscow’s control.

The markets appear to have started a recovery. Pity for the Ukrainians – the West has initially led them down the river only to appear to abandon them. The Ukrainians themselves appear to have launched a strong guerilla counterattack. Now the funding of arms from the West and the Starlink satellite turned on by Elon Musk to enable critical communications, may turn the tide and thwart Russia. Let’s hope someone has a strategy to de-escalate the nuclear talk.

 

The Rare Earth Metals Index (MMI) rose by over 17% month over month.

MetalMiner launched the entire MMI series in January, 2012. At that time, all of the rare earth metals began with an index reading of 100. By June of 2013, the rare earth metals MMI  plummeted to 29 and reached a low in 2016 of 16. In addition, the bear market for the entire complex lasted for over four years and didn’t really start to move until April, 2021. That four year bear market outlasted all other metal price slumps for both ferrous and non ferrous metals.

The Rare Earths MMI has continued to increase since April of 2020.

Buying organizations can track actual rare earth prices with a MetalMiner Insights subscription. 

Beginning in 2008, the media went mad for rare earths and the looming crisis of America’s dependency on China. Everyone knows rare earth metals go into green technologies – from batteries to electronics. The U.S. military also heavily relies on these metals and that’s why the DoD has added many of these metals to the nation’s strategic stockpile. 

The relationship between metal prices and mining projects

Most of the junior mining firms that launched projects back in 2008 – 2010 to help alleviate the world’s reliance on China, went belly up. Crashing rare earth metals prices never support mining projects and investments. Of course, at the same time, Molycorp, once America’s only producer of rare earth metals at its Mountain Pass location in California, also closed. The company sadly shipped “some of its most profitable assets” to China-linked Neo Materials Corp. Jeffrey Green, the author of that linked story probably serves as one of the most prolific commentators in rare earth metals circles. In addition, Green offers specific recommendations to alleviate American reliance on the Chinese. 

In addition, Green suggests a series of actions that the U.S. government can take. First, he suggests that the U.S. government reduce the red tape and bureaucracy in bringing new projects to market. This mostly refers to the permitting process. In addition, American rare earth producers would have a huge leg up in fundraising and market acceptance if the U.S. military awarded take or pay agreements. These agreements commit volume to producers for military systems requiring these metals. Last, instead of product substitution, Green suggests the US invest in “production technologies to increase its supply.” 

Some of these recommendations have come to fruition. Moreover, many of these suggestions also appeared in the Biden-Harris supply chain disruption task force.  The task force recommended incentives to support “sustainably produced strategic and critical materials”. Furthermore, the administration ordered the Department of energy to release a lithium battery “blueprint” to help develop a domestic lithium battery supply chain.

Unfortunately, moving to clean energy and green technologies will take a whole lot of money and commitment. Many of the components of the President’s plan have landed nowhere as the $7b earmarked in Build Back Better has not come to fruition.

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Actual metal price trends

The biggest mover includes terbium oxide up by nearly 22% to close at $2174/kg. 

Neodymium oxide increased by nearly 17% rising to $178389/mt.

 

The Rare Earths Monthly Metals Index (MMI) rose by 1.7% for this month’s reading.

January 2022 Rare Earths MMI chart

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China consolidates trio of rare earths units

As Beijing has sought to control its domestic metals production in the form of state-directed company consolidation, it has also done so in the rare earths sector.

According to the state-run Xinhua, China established the China Rare Earth Group Co., Ltd. late last month in the country’s Jiangxi province.

Aluminum Corporation of China, China Minmetals Corporation and Ganzhou Rare Earth Group Co., Ltd. established the new company jointly.

Companies aim to develop REE-making technology

Last month, Energy Fuels Inc., the U.S.’s top producer of uranium, announced a memorandum of understanding with Nanoscale Powders LLC to develop novel technology for the production of rare earth element metals.

“We believe this Technology, which was initially developed by NSP, and will be advanced by the Company and NSP working together, has the potential to revolutionize the rare earth metal making industry by reducing costs of production, reducing energy consumption, and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Energy Fuels said in its announcement. “Producing REE metals and alloys is a key step in a fully integrated REE supply chain, after production of separated REE oxides and before the manufacture of neodymium iron boron magnets used in electric vehicles, wind generation and other clean energy and advanced technologies.”

Among its other operations, Energy Fuels produces mixed rare earth element carbonate. It also recovers uranium from natural monazite sands.

“The Company is also moving quickly toward producing REE Oxides at the Mill using proven solvent extraction technologies,” the firm added. “The Mill has over 40 years of experience producing uranium and vanadium oxides using SX technology.”

Companies, industry groups weigh in on Section 232 neodymium magnet probe

Last September, the Department of Commerce announced the initiation of a Section 232 investigation covering neodymium magnets.

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India is trying to save some export bucks in the new year where specialty steel is concerned.

In 2022, India plans to focus on increasing per capita steel consumption enhancing steel raw material security.

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India seeks investors under PLI scheme for specialty steel

India

Zerophoto/Adobe Stock

In line with its announcement in mid-2021, the Government of India (GoI) recently invited applications from investors looking to invest under the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for specialty steel. The deadline for all submissions is March 29, 2022, as per the Ministry of Steel announcement. The incentive payout could well be over U.S. $840 million over five years for those companies participating in the scheme.

Specifically, specialty steel is a variety of the alloy that is enhanced by coating, plating, heat treatment, etc., to transform it into high-value steel for numerous strategic sectors, such as defense, space, power and automobiles, among others.

With the PLI scheme, India aims to become less dependent on special steel imports into India.

The PLI scheme aims to promote the manufacture of specialty steel grades in India. Furthermore, it seems to help the steel industry rise to the top of the value chain through technology development.

The broad five target categories for the scheme are: coated/plated products, high-strength/wear-resistant steel, specialty rails, alloy steel products and steel wires, and electrical steel.

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Chinese authorities recently presented a draft plan to reduce heavy metal emissions by 5% by 2025.

As noted previously here, the move comes after Beijing moved to stabilize surging coal prices. The government moved to increase both coal imports and domestic output.

The Dalian coking coal price surged to $694 per metric ton in late October. However, the key steelmaking input has plunged by approximately 33% since then. Coking coal this week week fell to $464 per metric ton.

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China’s metals emissions plan

China map

Zerophoto/Adobe Stock

The government posted the plan on the Ministry of Ecology and Environment website, inviting the general people to comment.

The plans includes language indicating it will take efforts to eliminate obsolete and excess capacity in the heavy metals sector, Chinese tabloid the Global Times reported.

China will accelerate the transfer of professional electroplating companies to special industrial parks, the Global Times reported.

China is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Much of China’s emissions come from coal-fired power generation.

In October, as we noted in previous reports and the Monthly Metal Outlook (MMO), Beijing moved to stabilize the coal market amid supply fears. As a result, China increased imports and ramped up domestic output.

Long road ahead on emissions

China’s State Council, however, seems a little skeptical about the new anti-pollution targets.

A report by news agency Reuters recently said in a report that China had a long road ahead on environmental protection.

The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that according to the State Council, while there had been some improvement in the country’s ecological situation since the launch of its anti-pollution campaign, it would be tough to tackle pollution and ensure that carbon emissions peaked in 2030. Furthermore, China has also pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

Data by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment show that China’s emissions of heavy metals in waste water decreased from 167.8 tons in 2016 to 120.7 tons in 2019. That marked a decline of 28%, the Global Times reported.

Some of the heavy metal pollutants on China’s control and prevention list include lead and mercury. Those are largely used by the electroplating industry, the chemical manufacturing industry and the leather tanning business.

Pollution problem

Environment pollution has been troubling China for a long time. A study by a USC-led team in 2020 illustrated the severity of the problem.

The team had found that emissions from coal-fired power plants in China were “fertilizing” the North Pacific Ocean with a metal nutrient important for marine life.

“This work shows fossil fuel burning has a side effect: the release of iron and metals into the atmosphere that carry thousands of miles and deposit in the ocean where they can impact marine ecosystems,” said Seth John, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of Earth sciences at USC Dornsife. “Certain metal deposits could help some marine life thrive while harming other life.”

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