Greenpeace: Investigation finds pollution and illness ignored at Asia's largest lead mine, Yunnan Province

Press release - 2015-06-09
Beijing, 9 June 2015 – A Greenpeace East Asia (GPEA) investigation has found severe heavy metal pollution and serious health problems at Asia's largest zinc and lead mine and smelting plant in Jinding Town, Lanping County, Yunnan. The findings come against a backdrop of stricter national regulations on the heavy metals industry. In Lanping, one of the most impoverished counties in western China, however, the Yunnan Provincial Government and Yunnan Jinding Zinc Corporation Ltd., the mine owners, have recklessly compromised the environment and the health of locals in the pursuit of profit.

 As heavily polluting industries are reigned in in eastern China, they are expanding in the poorer western provinces. China's most ecologically diverse province, Yunnan, is aggressively exploiting non-ferrous metals and fuelling the already serious situation of heavy metal pollution,” said GPEA Senior Campaigner Ada Kong.

GPEA's field work was conducted in mid-April of this year. The team collected household dust and earth and water samples in Jinding Town. Tests showed that cadmium and lead contamination in the area is widespread. Further analysis revealed that the samples' cadmium, lead and zinc content have a direct correlation to proximity to the Jinding Zinc Industrial Smelting Plant.

“I was shocked by the proximity between the huge smelting complex and the locals' homes. In some places it was less than 100m, a clear violation of safety standards and blatant inaction of law enforcement by the local government.” said Ada Kong.

In 2006 Yunnan Jinding Zinc Corporation Ltd. acknowledged that the minimum distance between residential areas and the plant should be 600m, and promised to relocate residents accordingly – a promise yet to  be fulfilled. The plant has caused numerous health problems for the villagers, especially amongst children, who are particularly susceptible to lead absorption.

A GPEA review of blood lead poisoning cases across China over the past 10 years has found that a third of all cases are caused by lead-zinc smelting. As the largest lead producer and lead polluter in western China, the problems are particularly severe in Yunnan.  

In March 2015 the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology introduced stricter lead and zinc production regulations, and in December 2014 the Ministry of Environmental Protection openly warned Yunnan that it is not on target to achieve its 2015 heavy metal pollution prevention targets. Despite new regulations and a direct warning from central government, the Yunnan Provincial Government continues to aggressively expand its non-ferrous metals industry.

As much of China, under guidance and pressure from central government, acts to clean up its air, soil and water, polluting industries are expanding aggressively in western China. The Yunnan Provincial Government is deepening environmental and health hazards through its expansion of the non-ferrous metal industry. The situation at Asia's largest zinc and lead mine and smelting plant in Jinding Town is testament to the dangers of this under-regulated expansion. GPEA calls on the Yunnan Provincial Government to align with central government regulations and control the expansion of this toxic industry in China's west. In the short term, it is imperative that Yunnan Jinding Zinc Corporation Ltd. fulfil their duty to relocate local residents.

Media Contact:

Tom Baxter  International Communications Officer

Mobile: +86 188 1134 4861



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