China to “strengthen management” of strategic mineral resources, eyes green upgrade of steel

China President Xi Jinping’s speech at UN General Assembly (Youtube Screenshot: PBS News Hour)

China will “strengthen management and control” of its strategic mineral resources, the government said on Friday as it set out a five-year development plan, without providing any details on how it plans to secure key supplies and boost self-sufficiency.

China, the world’s top metals consumer, relies heavily on overseas markets for some raw materials import such as iron ore, manganese and chrome. There was no immediate word on boosting strategic reserves across industrial metals in the plan.

China aims to complete ultra-low emission upgrade for 530 million tonnes of steel capacity

But the country pledged to improve its reserve security capabilities and conduct a new round of ore prospecting in the next five years, according to the plan, which serves as a blueprint for economic and social development between 2021 and 2025.

The industry ministry said in December that China aims to build one or two globally significant overseas iron ore mines by 2025 to boost supply and enhance its pricing power.

In the five-year plan, China also vowed to promote green transformation for the steel sector.

China aims to complete ultra-low emission upgrade for 530 million tonnes of steel capacity and clean production upgrade for 850 million tonnes of cement and for 460 million tonnes of coke capacity, according to the plan.

Around 620 million tonnes of crude steel capacity had already been upgraded to ultra-low emissions or were in the process of being upgraded by the end of 2020. China churned out 1.065 billion tonnes of the metal last year.

For 2021, China said it will continue to push forward supply-side reform and mergers and acquisitions in the steel sector, according to the state planner report also released on Friday during the annual parliament meeting.

“Overall environment for the steel sector this year is fine from what the government reports say,” said Wu Shiping, an analyst at Tianfeng Futures.

“But there are not many details on the infrastructure and real estate policies,” Wu added, referring to the sector that consumes the most steel.

China’s Iron and Steel Association expected steel demand to grow slightly in 2021.

(By Shivani Singh, Min Zhang and Emily Chow; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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