Jan 18 (Reuters) - Insufficient power supply has forced lead smelters in Henan province to cut or shut production, the latest victim of China's power shortages this winter, smelter officials said on Monday.
Production in the world's top lead producing nation was already falling due to reduced supplies of lead concentrates from northern mines in the winter.
Smelter officials said metal output would fall further in January, resulting from lower output in Henan, the biggest lead producing province in China.
Primary lead smelters typically are not as seen the main industrial firms such as aluminium smelters to which local governments in Henan try to maintain power supplies, as the cost of production stoppages and restarts is high.
"Our primary lead production has fallen by 20 percent this month," said Tang Chenghe, chairman of Yubei Gold and Lead in Anyang city, with capacity of 160,000 tonnes a year of primary lead and 100,000 tonnes a year of recycled metal.
"From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., power supply drops and we have to slow down production," Tang told Reuters. He added production of recycled lead remained nearly normal as it used less power than smelted primary metal.
Regions such as Henan in central and southwest China face reduced electricity supplies after demand jumped because of freezing weather in January that triggered coal shortfalls, according to the State Grid Corp of China .
The power operator in Henan province's industrial city of Gongyi stopped providing daytime electricity to aluminium fabricators as of last Monday, forcing them to halve production.
A sales manager at a lead smelter in Lingbao city said the smelter had closed its 100,000-tonne-a-year smelting and refining capacity on Jan 12 temporarily due to power shortages.
Local residents were also demanding higher environmental requirements for lead smelters, prompting the smelter to bring forward an upgrading plan, said the sales manager, who asked not to be identified.
"We plan to reopen by end-February," he said.
Another 100,000-tonne-a-year lead smelter in Lingbao was cutting production, said a senior executive, who also asked not to be named.
But smelter officials in Jiyuan city said smelters, including China's top lead producer Yuguang Gold and Lead and Wanyang Lead, were running nearly normal operations because overall power consumption had fallen following the closure of smelting capacity in August last year.
Yuguang, as well as Wanyang Lead and Jinli Lead in Jiyuan, have each closed a 50,000-tonne-a-year designed sintering smelting capacity since Aug. 24 following incidents of lead poisoning in some Chinese provinces.
The capacity was likely to remain shut in February, they said.