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China to investigate state-owned giants Minmetals, ChemChina in new pollution audits

[SHANGHAI] China will investigate state-owned metals conglomerate China Minmetals and chemical producer China National Chemical in a new round of central government environmental audits, the environment ministry said.

China is about to embark on the second round of inspections into environmental compliance in its provinces and regions.

This will be the first time the investigations will specifically target state-owned firms.

The investigation teams are run directly by the ruling Chinese Communist Party and headed by retired government ministers or provincial heads. They have the authority to visit any site and summon any official to explain their conduct.

The environment ministry said on Monday that eight teams had already been set up, focusing on the cities of Shanghai and Chongqing, the provinces of Fujian, Hainan, Gansu and Qinghai as well as the two giant state-owned enterprises.

Minmetals was heavily criticised during a previous environmental audit carried out in the province of Hunan, with the company accused by inspectors of being a "big corporate bully" after its subsidiaries failed to rectify a series of violations dating back to 2013.

The Shandong branch of ChemChina, which took over the Swiss agrochemicals firm Syngenta in 2017, was also criticised for producing and selling substandard diesel and for refusing to cooperate with inspections.

A spokesman for Minmetals told Reuters that the investigations would have no impact on the company's operations. A spokesman with ChemChina did not immediately respond to a request for comment.