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China's Zijin defends handling of pollution spill

BEIJING, Tuesday 13 July 2010 (AFP) - China's top gold producer on Tuesday defended its handling of a toxic pollution spill that killed off vast numbers of fish, saying heavy rains were to blame, as the company's shares slumped.

Pollution from a copper mine owned by Zijin Mining Group Co. has contaminated the Ting river, a major waterway in the southeastern Fujian province, leading to the poisoning of up to 1,890 tonnes of fish, reports said.

"There has been no cover-up, no misrepresentation of the facts and no important omissions," the company said in a statement on the July 3 leak from the mine's sludge pond.

"Zijin Mining... will take full responsibility for the truthfulness and accuracy of its statements."

It said it would pay compensation to fish farmers who were affected.

The company, China's third largest copper producer, blamed the mishap on torrential rains that have pounded Fujian for the past few weeks, saying it had responded immediately to the leakage and controlled the spill within 24 hours.

Shares in Zijin Mining dived 4.68 percent to 5.70 yuan (84 US cents) at midday Tuesday in Shanghai. The company had suspended trading in its shares on Monday, when the pollution leak was first reported.

"The leak did not affect the drinking water quality in Shanghang county and the lower reaches (of the river)," the company said.

"A certain quantity of fish in fish farms were killed, leading to economic losses. The company apologises for this."

The company said it would compensate the fish farmers for their losses. Production at the mine has also been suspended.

According to the China Daily, the Ministry of Environmental Protection in May criticised 11 top enterprises for failing to protect the environment, placing Zijin Mining at the top of the list.

The ministry also ordered Zijin to make modifications at its copper mine in Fujian, it said.

Years of unbridled economic growth have left most of China's lakes and rivers heavily polluted. More than 200 million Chinese currently do not have access to safe drinking water, according to government data.

MySinchew 2010.07.13

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