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Zijin Trading Halted Ahead of Acid-Waste Leak Penalty

Oct. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Zijin Mining Group Co., China’s largest gold producer, was suspended from trading in Hong Kong ahead of a statement on the penalty for the July acid-waste spill at its largest copper mine.

Chairman Chen Jinghe didn’t give details in the Fujian-based company’s statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange today.

Zijin Mining spilled 2.4 million gallons of acidic waste from its Zijinshan mine in Fujian province in July, polluting the Ting river and poisoning enough fish to feed 72,000 people for a year. The China Securities Regulatory Commission is investigating the company for a possible breach of information disclosure rules and the police have detained some executives.

The July 3 leak caused “enormous economic losses,” Zijin had said, pledging to step up inspections and invest 200 million yuan ($30 million) within a year to improve its environmental performance.

Zijin Mining and its waste management staff may be liable for criminal penalties, Sonia Lu, a Guangzhou-based lawyer at Alpha & Leader Law Firm, said in July. Environmental pollution incidents with “especially serious consequences” carry a prison sentence of three to seven years plus fines, Lu said. The failure to make proper disclosures carries a maximum prison sentence of three years, she said.

A nine-day delay in disclosing the spill prompted the securities regulator to investigate. The Zijinshan copper plant’s manager, deputy manager and the head of environment were detained after the leak. It was the worst accident in the Chinese gold mining industry since July 2008, when runoff from a Zhongjin Gold Corp. site in Dandong poisoned the water supply for 210,000 people.

The company on Sept. 27 said four people died after a tailings dam at its tin mine collapsed following heavy rains from Typhoon Fanapi. The Guangdong provincial government is investigating, it said.

To contact the reporters on this story: John Duce in Hong Kong at Jduce1@bloomberg.net; Debra Mao in Hong Kong at dmao5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hwee Ann Tan at hatan@bloomberg.net

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