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Tangshan steelmakers saddled with new curbs from Oct 10

For steel mills in Tangshan, the top steel producing city in North China’s Hebei province, it must seem like they can’t even think about cranking production back up before they’re being told to apply the brakes again. Under a new order issued by the Tangshan city government on Wednesday, no sooner had the mills been freed from an earlier round of intensive production curbs on October 3 than they’re being ordered to restrict part of their operations again from Thursday until month’s end.

The most recent announcement from Tangshan city requires steel mills categorized as “C” in terms of environmental protection capability to halve their sintering, pelletizing, lime kiln and blast furnace operations over October 10-31, with the only consolation for the mills being that other industries regarded as polluting – such as coke, cement and glass making – are also required to idle some production.

A category list of Tangshan steel mills seen by Mysteel Global shows that only Shougang Qian’an Iron & Steel Co (placed by the government in “A” category) and “B” category mills Shougang Jingtang United Iron & Steel Co and Hebei Zongheng Group Fengnan Iron & Steel Co are not required to restrict production. However, the remaining 30 integrated steel mills all categorized by the government as “C” are obliged to obey.

“Mills are all hesitating about what to do. Some that had already resumed operations after the previous round of curbs ended are unsure whether they should shut down their facilities again,” a Tangshan-based market watcher told Mysteel Global on Thursday. “Some who had plans to bring back their furnaces cannot decide whether they can still do so now,” he complained.

“Every steel producer is watching the implementation of the latest orders. Obviously, they do not want to stop if they do not necessarily need to do so,” he added.

Over September 28-October 2, Tangshan steel mills were allowed to operate only one blast furnace over 00:00 on September 29 and 08:00 on October 2 (Beijing time), as Mysteel Global reported. Those with only one furnace had to halve the operative capacities.

Mysteel estimates that if the new curbs starting October 10 are fully implemented, Tangshan’s molten iron production will fall by 170,300 tonnes/day, a far greater loss than the 109,500 t/d clipped from average molten iron output through similar curbs imposed last month.

In a further measure to reduce pollution, beginning from October 10 the local government is requesting that the transportation by truck of heavy goods including iron ore into and out of port areas under its jurisdiction be temporarily suspended from 20:00 October 10 until 20:00 October 11. These include Tangshan’s major iron ore ports of Caofeidian and Jingtang.

“We will halt truck transportation in keeping with the government’s requirements,” an official with Caofeidian port confirmed with Mysteel Global, adding that the measure seemed to be a response to worsening air quality over recent days.

According to China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment’s five-day air quality forecast published on October 10, Tangshan will experience light to moderate atmospheric pollution over October 10-11, Mysteel Global noted.

Written by Olivia Zhang, zhangwd@mysteel.com and zyongjia@mysteel.com

Edited by Russ McCulloch, russ.mcculloch@mysteel.com