Chinese molybdenum miner has production licence suspended after tailings spill

BEIJING (Reuters) – Yichun Luming Mining Co Ltd, the owner of a tailings dam in northeast China that leaked last month, contaminating the local river system, has been ordered to temporarily halt production, according to a report on a provincial government website.

The emergency management bureau in the city of Yichun, in Heilongjiang province, will “temporarily withhold the company’s safe production licence” while rectifications are carried out, the report on the Heilongjiang government website said on Wednesday.

“Restrictive measures” have also been taken against Yichun Luming’s main managers, it said, without elaborating, adding that a team of experts has been assembled to investigate the cause of the spill.

Tailings dams are commonly used by mining firms to store waste remnants of ore but they have come under close scrutiny since the collapse of one in Brazil last year that killed more than 250 people.

In China, the incident at Yichun Luming’s tailings pond on March 28 caused no reported casualties but discharged 2.53 million cubic meters of waste before the leak was plugged on March 31. Yichun Luming’s license for the tailings pond has also been suspended, the Heilongjiang report said. [nL4N2BP2IL]

The spill contaminated water up to 110 km (68 miles) away, putting the local water supply at risk, provincial authorities said last week, prompting a 650-person strong clean-up effort. [nL4N2BN2AB]

Yichun Luming, a subsidiary of state-run China Railway Resources Group, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Its Luming mine can process 15 million tonnes of molybdenum ore a year, according to the company’s website. Molybdenum is a silvery metal used to make stainless steel and tools.

Reporting by Tom Daly; editing by Richard Pullin

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