Panzhihua, the Vanadium and Titanium Capital of China: New Changes in the Mines

On September 9, 2019, Sun Yat-sen University and the Social Sciences Academic Press (China) jointly issued the Blue Paper on Health Preserving: Report on the Development of the Health Preserving Industry in China (2018), in which Panzhihua ranked the 5th in terms of sustainable development capacity in the Chinese health preserving industry. The outstanding health preserving development potential is a manifestation of the sound nature, ecology and environment of a city.

Yet, Panzhihua’s ambient air quality was ranked excellent only 16% of the time in the year of 2004, the year which saw the city named one of the ten worst Chinese cities in air pollution. After many years of pollution management and environment protection, in particular the implementation of the green and ecological development concepts proposed by the Chinese government in the past few years, in 2016 Panzhihua achieved a 100% excellent rating in ambient air quality, according to the Environment Protection Bureau of Panzhihua, while the figures for 2017 and 2018 were respectively 98.4% and 97.8%.

Panzhihua is a city of sunshine and flowers in southwestern China, and a world-class model for resource-intensive industrial cities yearning for green transformation and development.

From the City of Iron and Steel to the Capital of Vanadium and Titanium

Panzhihua is the southernmost city in Sichuan, a major province of southwestern China. It neighbors the province of Yunnan and is the gateway that serves Sichuan Province’s southward expansion.

When the international landscape was spiraling with increasing velocity and ferocity in the 1960s, China undertook the “Third Front Movement” as a part of preparations for worst case scenario, and a massive number of national defense, technology, basic industries were relocated to the western part of the country. Panzhihua was created for this purpose.

This was originally a wasteland but after enormous iron reserves were found, under the decision of the Chinese government, in the face of adverse condition and powered by the sheer perseverance of hundreds of thousands of Third Front Movement participants from around the nation, Panzhihua Iron and Steel Co. was established in 1965 in the middle of this treacherous alpine terrain as western China’s first large-scale iron and steel enterprise.

With the production of iron in five years, steel in six years and sheet metal in nine years, Panzhihua Iron and Steel penned the concluding chapter in the history of a western China with no large-scale iron and steel enterprise, and created a world-class miracle by constructing a full-fledged iron and steel production facility on a plot of merely 2.5km2.

Panzhihua has been blessed with an abundance in mineral resources, with its reserves of titanium and vanadium respectively ranked biggest and third-largest in the world. After the concerted dedication of several generations, Panzhihua Iron and Steel Co. overcame the world-class problem of smelting high titanium vanadium vanadium-titanium magnetite with ordinary blast furnace, gradually actualizing scalable utilization of iron, vanadium and titanium, and garnering feats lauded across the globe.

In recent years, the development of the vanadium and titanium industries in Panzhihua picked up pace, and vanadium and titanium enterprise clusters continued to grow. As the pillar that supports the development of vanadium-titanium magnetite mines, Panzhihua Iron and Steel Co. has risen as the world’s number one vanadium producer, China’s largest titanium raw material and titanium processing enterprise with the most complete industrial chain, and at the same time a steel railway track manufacturing base that is the best in China and ranked among the top echelon worldwide. As China’s one and only top-notch steel railway track certified for “national export quality inspection exemption,” the 100-meter steel rails with vanadium fabricated in Panzhihua has been shipped to 25 nations and regions around the globe.

Panzhihua has grown into the emerging industrial city it is today precisely because of the diligence and contribution of countless Third Front Movement participants and their posterity, which is why it is also called a city of heroes. Today, this city of heroes has experienced several decades of innovative development, and has transformed from the Chinese city of iron and steel to the Chinese capital of vanadium and titanium that is striving steadfastly toward its goal of the world capital of vanadium and titanium.