China's Hebei aims to cut 8 mln T of steel capacity in 2018

SHANGHAI, Jan 8 (Reuters) - China's top steelmaking province of Hebei will cut steel production capacity by as much as 8 million tonnes this year, an environmental official said in comments published on the provincial government website on Sunday.

Gao Jianmin, head of the provincial environmental bureau, also said in the comments, made in a Friday briefing, that Hebei would shut 19 coal mines and cut coal production capacity by 10.62 million tonnes this year. It will also reduce coke capacity by 5 million tonnes.

The heavily polluted province, which surrounds the capital Beijing, is on the frontline of the country's war on overcapacity and pollution, with China desperate to improve air quality across the country.

Hebei shut 27.54 million tonnes of steelmaking capacity and 21.32 million tonnes of ironmaking capacity last year. China as a whole is aiming to cut steel capacity by 100 million to 150 million tonnes over the 2016-2020 period as part of its efforts to reduce supply gluts.

The region will also strengthen pollution checks and impose tougher punishments on companies and officials for violating regulations, in a further effort to cut pollution and smog.

The provincial government has pledged to curb concentrations of hazardous smog particles, known as PM2.5, by 14 percent by 2020. It said last week that it met all its air quality targets for 2017.

The province promised in 2013 to cut total annual steel output by 60 million tonnes by the end of 2017. It said in November last year that it had exceeded the target, shedding a total of 69 million tonnes over the period. (Reporting by Ruby Lian and David Stanway; Editing by Joseph Radford)