Controversy on copper and molybdenum smelting in Shifang, Sichuan, China

Hundreds of demonstrators including many students demonstrated in July 2012 in front of local government institutions against plans to build a molybdenum and copper smelter in Shifang city (Sichuan province). The project was stopped.


Demonstrators against plans to build a Molybdenum-Copper smelter in Shifang city (a city of 430 000 inhabitants, prefecture of Deyang in Sichuan province) gathered between July 1st and 4th in 2012 around streets and in front of local government institutions. Several hundreds of people, high-school and middle-school students had mobilized through micro-blog Weibo and QQ internet applications, marching against the enterprise Sichuan Hongda Group and asking local government for halting the project. Students carried slogans such as: ‘we can sacrifice ourselves, we belong to the post-1990 generation’; ‘Give us back the New Shifang’; ‘Hongda Mo-Co enterprise, get out of Shifang’; ‘To save Shifang, the city is united’ and ‘Protect Shifang’s environment, give us back our beautiful homeland’. Some demonstrators demanded the Local Secretary Li Chengjin to resign and abandon Shifang.

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Basic Data
NameControversy on copper and molybdenum smelting in Shifang, Sichuan, China
SiteShifang - Northwest area within the Economic Development Zone in Shifang
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral processing
Metal refineries
Specific CommoditiesMolybdenum
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsTotal annual output of 40,000 tons of Molybdenum and 400,000 tons of copper were expected for this projected plan

People in Shifang argued that, as the project would be located in a seismic zone, public health environmental risks would be thus much higher due to increased likelihood of toxic by-product delivery into the environment.
Project Area (in hectares)223
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date26/06/2012
Company Names or State EnterprisesSichuan Hongda Group (四川宏达股份有限公司) from China
Relevant government actorsShifang city local government
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingNeighbours/citizens/communities
Students (high-school and middle-school)
Forms of MobilizationStreet protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts
OtherIndustrial waste
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Militarization and increased police presence
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseRepression
Violent targeting of activists
Project cancelled
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Yes, although not without suffering by local people

Why? The project was finally stopped by mass mobilization pressing local authorities, who finally accepted to halt the project, but there were detentions, injured demonstrators.
Sources and Materials

[1] Local Governments and Policy Responses: The Case of Shifang Protest by Hejin Wang. A thesis presented to the University of Waterloo in fulfilment of the thesis requirement for the degree of Master of Arts in Political Science. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, 2013. © Hejin Wang 2013.


[2] 群体性事件的情感社会学分析—以什邡钼铜项目事件为例。 孙静。2013。

Wikipedia account in English
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Anti-pollution protesters halt construction of copper plant in China. Construction of a molybdenum copper plant temporarily stopped after thousands protest in Shifang, south-west China (The Guardian)
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[4] Article in The Guardian
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[3] Wikipedia in Chinese
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Other Documents

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Last update18/10/2016