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Illegal mining firms focus of campaign
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More than 46,000 mining firms classified as being unsafe or heavy polluters have been closed down over the past two years, land and resources minister Xu Shaoshi said at a conference in Beijing yesterday.

Of the total, which represents about a third of all mining companies outside the gas and oil sector, more than 18,000 were closed for operating in designated non-exploitation areas, environment authorities said at the same meeting.

Nine government bodies, including the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) and the Ministry of Land and Resources, took part in the conference to launch a nationwide campaign to regulate the mining industry, which is typified by unapproved exploitation of resources and heavy pollution.

According to the geological survey bureau under the Ministry of Land and Resources, operations at almost 8,500 mines (about 8 percent of the total) have had a "severely negative impact" on the local environment.

The conference vowed to investigate all authorities that claim to have established environmental accountability systems for mining companies during the campaign.

Zhang Lijun, vice-minister of SEPA, called on local environment watchdogs to rescind the licenses of any mining firms that discharge heavy metals, permanent organic pollutants or excessive amounts of wastewater into rivers.

"Companies that fail in their environmental commitments should have their operations halted until they rectify the situation," Zhang said.

He also promised better supervision of firms in the minerals sector to ensure their accountability, and said details of major violations will be made public.

Authorities launched a nationwide campaign to regulate the non-gas-and-oil mining sector in May 2005, in a bid to ensure safe and clean production.

But despite its many successes, severe problems remain, Xu said.

Since 2005, of the 128,000 cases involving irregularities in mine surveying and exploitation, the majority of firms were operating without government approval, Xu said.

(China Daily March 4, 2008)

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