Toxic waste leak at Zijinshan Gold & Copper Mine, Fujian, China

Toxic waste from a mine operated by China's top gold/copper producer polluted the Tingjiang River, threatening drinking water supply and the fishing industry along the river.


Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd. (hereafter”Zijin”), is a Chinese gold, copper and non-ferrous metals producer and refiner of Mainland China [1]. The predecessor of Zijing Mining Group, Shanghang County Mining Company, was founded on 15 July 1986 in Fujian Province. Zijin is mainly engaged in the exploration and mining of gold, copper, zinc and other mineral resources. Being a leading metal producer in China, the Group ranks the 1200th place in the Forbes Global 2000 in 2017, the 3rd place among the world’s public gold miners, and the 82th place in the Fortune China 500 in 2017. Listed in Hong Kong Stock Exchange (code: 2899) and Shanghai Stock Exchange (code: 601899), Zijin has developed an extensive product portfolio of gold, copper, lead and zinc, tungsten, iron ore and other base metals and invested in 24 provinces across China and 9 foreign countries. [2]

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Basic Data
NameToxic waste leak at Zijinshan Gold & Copper Mine, Fujian, China
SiteShanghang County, Longyan Municipal City
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Mineral ore exploration
Mineral processing
Tailings from mines
Metal refineries
Specific CommoditiesCopper
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe Zijinshan Gold & Copper Mine is located in Shanghang County, covering an area of 30 km2, employing 1900 staff. As the core mine of Zijin, it was discovered in the 1980s and became one of the largest porphyritic-type deposits in China. The deposit consists of two ore bodies: upper oxidized gold domain and lower copper domain in fresh rocks. The deposit type is described as porphyry related high-sulphidation epithermal Cu-Au deposit.

The high grade copper ores (+0.3%) goes to flotation plant while the low grade ores (0.13-0.3%) are processed through biological heap leaching with SXEW.

Zijinshan produced 236,950 ounces of gold (about 7.37 tonnes) and 56,276 tonnes of copper in 2016. The proven gold reserves of Zijinshan as of December 31, 2016, were 10.2 million ounces (about 318 tonnes), and the proven reserves of copper were 2.16 million tonnes, while the prospective resources were over 5 million tonnes.

Zijin had invested 2.5 billion yuan accumulatively in Zijinshan’s soil and water conservation and ecological restoration by the end of 2016, covering 10.5 km2 green space. [3]

The Zijinshan Copper plant produces 12,800 metric tons of copper a year. [11]

The estimated affected population includes half of the population in Shanghang County, population in at least one town of Wuping County and population along the Tingjiang River. [rough estimation based on statistics]
Project Area (in hectares)3,000
Level of Investment (in USD)1,100,000,000.00
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population300,000
Start Date03/07/2010
Company Names or State EnterprisesZijinshan Gold & Copper Mine from China - polluting company
Zijin Mining Group Co., Ltd. (Zijin Mining) from China - controller and owner of the polluting company
Relevant government actors-Shanghang County Government

-Department of Environmental Protection in Guangdong

-Department of Environmental Protection in Fujian

-Ministry of Environmental Protection (as the Ministry of Ecology and Environment since March 2018 )
Environmental justice organisations and other supporters-Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE)

-Civic Exchange
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationOfficial complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Other Health impacts
Otherhigh incidence of cancer
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood
Potential: Other socio-economic impacts
Othereconomic impact on fisheries; local residents have to buy purified water or get waster from far away; they have to move out if they want to escape from the contaminated environment.
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Application of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
The company was accused of bribing journalists.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.It's not just the toxic waste leak in 2010, but there are long term environmental, health and social-economic impacts of pollution from the mining company. They destroy the landscape of mountains to extract any potential reserves of minerals; the rich moved away with money while the poor have to stay with the pollution.
Sources and Materials

[2] Zijin: About us. (accessed on 2018-09-18)
[click to view]

[7]紫金矿业废水渗漏汀江致流域严重污染迟报九天(accessed on 2018-09-30)
[click to view]

[9] Pozon,I. Mining for data. (accessed on 2018-09-20)
[click to view]

[1] Wikipedia: Zijin Mining. (accessed on 2018-09-18)
[click to view]

[3] Zijinshan Gold & Copper Mine (accessed on 2018-09-17)
[click to view]

[4] Yang, CM. 紫金梦魇Zijin’s poisoned legacy (accessed on 2018-09-17) Original article on Southern Metropolis Weekly was not available anymore.
[click to view]

[5] Li, TG. 紫金矿业为何铤而走险Their own worst enemy (accessed on 2018-09-30)
[click to view]

[6] 紫金山铜矿污染区养殖业几近绝收(accessed on 2018-09-30)
[click to view]

[8] China Daily: Zijin toxic waste spill spreads to Guangdong (accessed on 2018-09-20)
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[10]紫金6月曾发生死鱼事件 政府下令高考生吃鱼小心 (accessed on 2018-09-30)
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[11] China Daily: Regulator probes Zijin's acid leak disclosure (accessed on 2018-09-20)
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[12] 紫金矿业:淘金的背后(accessed on 2018-09-20)
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[13] 反思中的华丽转身——紫金矿业集团改革与发展观察透视之绿色环保 (accessed on 2018-09-20)
[click to view]

Media Links

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CCTV2:事故调查-九天后才曝光 诚信何在?
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BTV:紫金矿业“全面停产”变“限产” 股价连续反弹
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Other Documents

Polluted site at Zijinshan
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Toxic waste discharge at Zijinshan
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Dead fish buried
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Meta Information
ContributorEnvJustice, ICTA-UAB
Last update16/12/2018