Big step in capital's Games cleanup

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 January, 2008, 12:00am

Beijing's worst polluter, the Shougang steelworks, shut one of its four giant blast furnaces yesterday, a key step in delivering clearer skies for the Olympics and for the state-owned behemoth's relocation away from the capital.

After more than 35 years of operation, the fires were doused in the plant's No4 furnace, Xinhua reported.

Li Yan, head of production for the Beijing Shougang Group, the country's fourth-largest steelmaker, said the plant's No2 furnace and other production facilities would cease operating by the end of March.

The plant's No3 furnace and other facilities will stop operating temporarily during the third quarter, reducing monthly output in that period by more than 70 per cent.

The No4 furnace produced a record 1.24 million tonnes of crude steel last year. Overall, the closures will halve the annual 8 million tonne output of the plant, 17km west of Tiananmen Square.

'The company will suffer a revenue loss of 2.6 billion yuan from reducing production,' Shougang Group president Zhu Jimin told Xinhua. 'However, we can make it up through producing high-value-added and hi-tech products, and raising work efficiency.'

Xinhua said closing the furnaces would dramatically improve air quality in the city. Emissions of sulfur dioxide, soot and dust would be halved this year and drop more than 70 per cent during the Olympics, which begin on August 8.

City Communist Party secretary Liu Qi and acting mayor Guo Jinlong joined a ceremony to mark the closure.

Nearly 8,500 steelworkers will be affected by the closures. The city had budgeted one billion yuan to help Shougang retrain employees and pay laid-off workers, Xinhua said.

Shougang aims to have moved all production out of the capital by 2010. Relocation to nearby Hebei province has been under way since 2005.

When the move is completed, the only Shougang operations left in the capital will be its headquarters, research and development centre, sales and logistics departments.