China's Latest Environmental Ills: Oil Spills and Copper Mines

By Joseph Calamia | July 20, 2010 4:40 pm

dalian-portTwo Chinese bodies of water made pollution headlines this week: the Yellow Sea is home to an oil spill, and the Ting River to waste water from a copper processing plant.

The Ting River

The waste water came from the Zijinshan mine in China’s Fujian province. Though earlier this month mine operators blamed weather for waste water entering the river, this week they admitted to and contaminating the river with–as The Sydney Morning Herald puts it–“four Olympic-size swimming pools” worth of waste water containing acidic copper.

Zijin’s board of directors expresses “its deep regret regarding the incident and the improper handling of information disclosure by the company, for causing substantial losses to the fish farmers located at the reservoir downstream of the mine and having a harmful impact on society,” the company said yesterday. [Bloomberg Businessweek]

Chinese police have detained two of the mine’s operators. Meanwhile, acidic copper has reportedly killed 4 million pounds of fish and threatens drinking water.

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, [about $900,000]. [Sidney Morning Herald]

The Yellow Sea

Two oil pipelines have exploded in the port city of Dalian and have covered what the AP reports to be around 70 square miles of ocean. That’s not much compared to the 2,700 square miles covered by the Gulf of Mexico spill, but the spill is still a relatively big one in China’s recent history and certainly dramatic given its fiery start.

Images of 100-foot-high (30-meter-high) flames shooting up near part of China’s strategic oil reserves drew the immediate attention of President Hu Jintao and other top leaders. Now the challenge is cleaning up the greasy brown plume floating off the shores of Dalian, once named China’s most livable city. [AP]

Chinese reporters say that the no more oil is entering the sea and that officials have deployed 800 fishing boats to join 24 ships already on scene to stop the oil’s spread before it reaches international waters.

Economic activity in the north-eastern port has been seriously disrupted. Six “very large crude carriers”, with about 12m barrels of oil, were expected to be diverted, possibly to South Korea or other terminals in China with the capacity for such large vessels. Ships carrying imported corn have also been forced to dock elsewhere. Thousands of firefighters have doused the flames and port engineers have staunched the leak, but the clean-up mission will take at least four more days, according to the domestic media. [The Guardian]

Related content:
80beats: Isn’t It Ironic: Green Tech Relies on Dirty Mining in China
80beats: 1/3 of China’s Yellow River Not Even Fit for Industrial Use
DISCOVER: China’s Syndrome—will China be able to curb it’s pollution problem?
DISCOVER: China Promises Pollution Cleanup

Image: Wikimedia / Dalian / ASDFGHJ


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