Toxic gas leaked from one of the largest manganese production sites in the world, the Tianyuan Manganese Industry Company in northern China, on Dec. 23 after midnight, injuring 24 people and killing 3, according to official reports.
The poisoned employees were taken to the hospital, according to a company official.
The company’s vice general manager Jiao Shuang was quoted by Xinhua as saying that a laboratory workshop was conducting a chemical reaction experiment between manganese carbonate and sulfuric acid when the incident took place. An unknown gas was emitted, with 24 staff members immediately displaying signs of chemical poisoning. The initial diagnosis from the Ningxia Department of Health stated that 24 staff members had been poisoned by hydrogen sulfide.
The reporter called the Taiping Village Office, located less than a mile away from the company. A village official said they had received no notification of the gas leak, nor information from the company about the incident.
The company is one of the largest local enterprises, with over 1000 employees.
Separate to the poisoning incident, complaints have been raised about the environmental practices of Tianyuan.
Residents in Taiping village complained to the reporter that Tianyuan’s manganese operations have contaminated their agricultural produce and polluted the environment. Residents have filed complaints with the environmental agency and government officials on many occasions, they said.
Last year, residents demanded officials from the environmental agency negotiate with the company, though nothing came of it.
Last September, Ningxia Daily ran a news feature saying that the People’s Congress in the autonomous region and the region’s water pollution prevention team had ordered Tianyuan to improve its technology in the processing of waste residue and water.
The report said, “The company did not maintain its raw materials and waste residue according to governmental regulations. The waste water continues to be released into the Yellow River. According to a personnel source in the County Environmental Bureau, the waste water contains large amount of heavy metals, by far exceeding the standard levels.”
The company produces 7.2 tons of manganese per year.