(Updates with comment in paragraph 6)
BEIJING, March 7 China's biggest steelmaking
province, Hebei, will close its last "zombie" steel mills by the
end of next year, the governor said on Tuesday, marking a small
victory in the country's years-long battle to clean up its air
and cut excess capacity.
This year, the province will shut four "zombie" mills, or
plants that have stopped production but have not closed down,
and another four in 2018, Governor Zhang Qingwei said at a
briefing on the sidelines of the country's annual parliament
"We need to cut down the total number of steel plants, they
can't be everywhere," he said.
The move helps solve a headache that has dogged the country
as it has tried to make its bloated steel industry more
China, the world's top steelmaker, accounts for half of the
world's output, but its oversupply is four times U.S. output
"Last year was a turning point for us because it was the
first time equipment manufacturing overtook steel to become one
of our key industries," measured by tax revenue, said Zhang.
Hebei is home to 104 mills that account for nearly a quarter
of China's total steel output. The province has pledged to cut
steel and iron making capacity by 31.17 million tonnes by 2017
and by 49.13 million tonnes by 2020.
But Hebei, a northern province with some of the country's
smoggiest cities, and other regions still have a fight on their
hands to cut the use of dirty fuels like coal and deal with the
costly consequences of the restructuring: how to find new jobs
or incomes for laid off workers.
Zhang repeated that the province plans to close all steel
mills in the cities of Langfang, Baoding and Zhangjiakou, which
will co-host the 2022 Winter Olympics with Beijing, by the end
He also wants to cut the number of steel plants in the
province and build 10 specialty steel mills by the end of 2020.
(Reporting by Chen Aizhu, Sue-Lin Wong and Beijing newsroom;
Writing by Josephine Mason; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)