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Technological Change and the Environmental Imperative

Challenges to the Copper Industry

Edited by Claes Brundenius

Technological Change and the Environmental Imperative considers the extent of the success of polluting industries in becoming cost-efficient whilst acquiring less polluting technologies, in the face of fierce competition. The authors also discuss what has been the impact of privatisation on this process and what lessons have been learnt. Against this backdrop, and drawing on case material from Chile, China, Peru and Russia, the book goes on to assess the latest technological breakthroughs, and their possible future impact on cost efficiency and the environment.
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Chapter 4: Technological change and the environmental imperative: the case of copper smelting in China

Bo Göransson


Bo Göransson 1. INTRODUCTION In this chapter, we will discuss how technological change in the non-ferrous metals industry in China has been accommodated by the main actors in the sector. In China, as indeed in most other countries, the non-ferrous industry has increasingly come under pressure to reduce emissions of substances harmful to the environment. A further challenge lies in the fact that most of the large-scale state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the sector in China for a long time neglected technological upgrading and operated with obsolete and environmentally damaging technology. Using examples from a number of case-studies from main copper smelters in China, we will discuss the role of the state in guiding the development of the sector and examine the response of the state-owned enterprises in the non-ferrous metals industry to the dual challenges of achieving profitability and complying with stricter environmental regulations. Most of the empirical data presented in the case studies have been collected during study visits to the smelter, as well as through correspondence with managers at the plants during the period 1996–2000.1 2. REFORMING THE NON-FERROUS METALS SECTOR The growth of the Chinese economy, after the reform period started in 1978, has been remarkable. The average annual growth rate during the following two decades was 8 per cent (World Bank 1999). In 1995, China emerged as the second-largest economy in the world, after the United States. Economic historian Angus Maddison (1998) predicts that by the year 2017, China will regain its rank...

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