Several ministry-level bodies of the central government recently released a notice demanding an end to the blind expansion and disordered development of the coke industry.
The notice was jointly released by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Land and Resources, Ministry of Commerce; State Administration of Industry and Commerce; State Administration of Environmental Protection, China Banking Regulatory Commission and China Electricity Regulatory Commission.
An NDRC official said that growth in the steel industry and other sectors is causing coke demand and prices to rise sharply. In response, producers are expanding capacity as quickly as they can.
Coke is bituminous coal that has been carbonized, or heated to a temperature of 1,300 degrees Celsius (2,400 degrees Fahrenheit) for 12 to 36 hours but not burned. It is a critical raw material for making iron. However, the pollution generated by coke making is a serious environmental hazard. The major sources of pollution are gases and particulate matter escaping from doors and lids of coke-making ovens, and air and water pollution from cooling the product. The heating process consumes enormous amounts of fuel.
The notice calls for all heap coking, in which none of the escaping gases are captured, to be stopped immediately. Punitive action should be taken against enterprises that cannot meet national standards for environmental protection and energy conservation, and they should be required to correct deficiencies within a specified period.
With the exception of projects related to large steel enterprises and urban gas supply, all applications for new or expanded coke production should be denied. Strict requirements should be established for new market entries, while lending controls and energy allocations should be used to promote structural adjustment.
Management of the industry as a whole should be strengthened and a comprehensive clean-up begun. Incentives should be provided for technical innovations in environmental protection.
The export tax rebate for coke should be canceled and exports standardized and gradually reduced. The existing coke export quota system must be improved.
Finally, the notice calls on the industry to strengthen internal regulation by providing guidance through information.
(China.org.cn by Tang Fuchun, July 9, 2004)