Guangdong will not approve construction of a massive oil refinery near Guangzhou unless it passes an environmental impact assessment, the deputy director of the province's economic planning agency said yesterday. Li Miaojuan, deputy director of the Guangdong Development and Reform Commission, said the assessment had not yet been completed for the project at Nansha - billed as the mainland's largest foreign joint venture. She said: 'It needs to go through the process. If it fails to pass the assessment, we will scrap the project. We will evaluate the project by scientific methods.' She did not say whether the State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa) or the local environment department would carry out the assessment. If it is handled locally, it is highly likely it will win approval. Her comments constitute the clearest statement yet from the provincial government about the controversial US$5 billion joint venture between Sinopec and Kuwait Petroleum Corporation. The refinery would be about 40km from Macau and Hong Kong's northeastern Yuen Long district. Public concern is rising that it may aggravate air pollution in the Pearl River Delta. A Guangzhou newspaper recently cited a mainland expert as saying that Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Macau would be most affected. Fourteen Guangdong People's Congress deputies submitted a motion last month seeking a halt to the project. Sepa deputy director Pan Yue also said this week the project must submit to environmental assessment. However, he admitted his agency could not stop the refinery being built if Guangdong approved it. Mainland media have reported that villages have already been moved from the refinery site, and construction is widely expected to start this summer.