Environmental concerns and public backlash derail alumina projects in Chinese cities

Four more cities in northeast China’s Liaoning province have abandoned their pursuit of alumina projects amid public environmental concerns, after Chaoyang last week scrapped plans to build the world’s biggest alumina refinery, reports Reuters.

The new cancellations – announced in recent days by the cities of Fengcheng, Fuxin, Gaizhou and Huludao – mean projects designed to produce over 18.5 million tonnes of the substance used to make aluminium metal will not go ahead as planned.

Chaoyang’s decision to walk away from a massive 10 million tonnes per year alumina plant last week after a public consultation over its environmental impact was followed by a flurry of announcements from the other cities.

First, Fengcheng said in a statement that a 6 million tonnes per year alumina project it had agreed with Hangzhou Jinjiang Group had “stopped being implemented” in May for environmental reasons.

One day later, the Huludao government said it had noted netizens’ concerns over its own alumina refinery and decided to cancel it “in accordance with environmental-protection related rules,” while Fuxin said it was halting negotiations and cancelling its alumina project.

It was unclear what the planned capacities of those two projects were.

Then, Gaizhou also cancelled a planned 2.5 million stonne per year alumina project led by the Chongqing-based Bosai Group “in the wishes of the masses”.

While Liaoning was home to China’s first aluminium smelter in the 1930s, the province – along with neighbouring Jilin and Heilongjiang – currently produces no alumina.

The growing backlash against the white powder, which is extracted from bauxite, comes after it emerged both alumina and aluminium will be subject to 30 per cent output cuts in 28 cities in northern China for a second year this coming winter, under draft anti-pollution measures released last week.

Shekhar Ghosh is a communications consultant and and former journalist, who has edited and written for publications such as like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today and Outlook.

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