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UPDATE 1-China to issue scrap import licenses by end-June, earlier than expected by industry

expected by industry@

* Expects to grant some import licenses, quotas by end-June

* That is slightly earlier than previously anticipated by industry

* Has been clamping down on scrap metal cargoes into country (Adds detail, background)

BEIJING, May 29 (Reuters) - China aims to grant import licenses and a first batch of import quotas by the end of June for soon-to-be restricted scrap metal shipments into the nation, a government spokesman said, slightly earlier than previously expected by the industry.

The recycling branch of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association had said last month that the environment ministry would only formally accept import license applications from July 1.

China will restrict imports of high-grade Category 6 copper scrap from July, as well as aluminum and steel scrap, an extension of an earlier ban that started this year on Category 7 scrap, which has less metal content.

Traders and other scrap metal importers will have to show they have the capacity to manufacture scrap into refined metal or semi-finished products such as copper cathode or rods to receive licenses and quotas from the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE).

"The MEE has been carrying out inspections on scrap metals importers and processing companies," ministry spokesman Liu Youbin said on Wednesday, adding that the ministry would not accept applications from companies that had violated rules.

Since the 1980s, China has taken in hundreds of millions of tonnes of foreign scrap metal, paper, plastic and electronic waste for recycling.

But Beijing began restricting deliveries last year, while customs authorities have launched a series of crackdowns on waste smuggling.

"China will resolutely tighten solid waste imports ... The MEE is working to revise related law and regulations, and will strive to publish it as soon as possible," Liu said.

Other nations in the region have also been cracking down on waste cargoes from overseas, with Malaysia saying it would send back non-recyclable plastic scrap to the developed countries that shipped it there.

(Reporting by Muyu Xu and Shivani Singh; Editing by Joseph Radford)