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Palladium fell by the most since 2011 on concerns that the market is heading for oversupply. Gold dropped as gains in U.S. consumer confidence damped demand for a haven.
In South Africa, mine output of platinum and related metals, including palladium, surged 84 percent in June from a year earlier, official data showed Tuesday. The country is the world’s top palladium producer after Russia. Futures in New York plunged as much as 8.1 percent, the most since December 2011.
While most industrial metals climbed Tuesday on easing concerns over Chinese economic growth after the nation cut interest rates, palladium failed to get a boost because of speculation that the move won’t be enough to buoy auto sales in the country. China accounts for about 22 percent of global demand for the metal used in pollution-control devices, according to Bloomberg Intelligence data. Prices are heading for a third straight monthly decline.
How did Rui Hai International obtain a permit to store toxic chemicals?
For many residents, that is the key issue.
The company at the heart of the police investigation is Rui Hai International, which storedchemicals at the site without, it is claimed, the knowledge of local authorities.
With registered capital of 100 million yuan ($15.7 million), Rui Hai International was set up inDongjiang Free Trade Port Zone in 2012. The company's business facilities are made up ofwarehouses, storage terminals, storage yards, wastewater sumps and office buildings.
The company's website showed that it received a permit by Tianjin Maritime Safety Administration to operate storage and distribution works for toxic chemicals. These included calcium carbide, sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate for use in domestic and overseas markets.
Tianjin police has struggled to clearly identify the substances being stored at the blast site because the company's offices were destroyed. Confused documentation has also been a problem.
In another twist, Xinhua News Agency reported that Rui Hai International had only been granted a license to handle toxic chemicals less than two months ago. This poses the question: Had the company been operating illegally since October 2014 after its temporary license had expired.
Did the company flout government regulations?
That is impossible to say at this stage as the investigation continues, although there havebeen accusations.
Dong Shexuan, the deputy head of Rui Hai International, who holds 45 percent of thecompany's shares, is reported to be well connected with officers inside the Tianjin police forceand fire service. Although details are sketchy, it has been alleged in The Beijing News that hemet with officials of the Tianjin port fire brigade during a safety inspection.
According to claims from a senior official, who declined to be named, from the Industrial and Commercial Bureau of the Tianjin Binhai New Area, Dong gave fire service officers safety appraisal files, but an independent assessment of the site was not carried out. Dong, who is now in police custody, was unavailable to comment about these allegations.
What does appear clear is that Dong was given the green light for operating a storage facility close to a residential area. To many local residents, this appeared unusual as similar companies operating in the chemicals sector had been closed down by authorities.
So far, the police has detained senior managers of Rui Hai International, including Dong, as well as the son of a former police officer in Tianjin, and Yu Xuewei, a former State-owned company executive. Both are shareholders in Rui Hai International.
"Obtaining a safety risk assessment license should not be that easy," Zhu Liming, deputy head of the planning and land management bureau at Binhai New Area, said.
"It should involve not only the local fire brigade but also safety experts who have the experience and expertise in this area. They are needed to identify all the potential safety risks and should be part of the evaluation team," Zhu added.
Why were the warehouses located so close to residential areas?
Again, this is a difficult question to answer. Yang Baojun, vice-president of the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design in Beijing, has called for the planning process to be overhauled.
"Because of economic development, the fast pace of urbanization and rising land prices in higher-tier cities, local governments need to pay greater attention to the distance separating residential areas from dangerous manufacturing and energy facilities," Yang said. "These should include chemical plants, power stations and paper mills."
Existing laws in China state that warehouses containing toxic materials must be at least 1,000 meters from major transport hubs and public buildings. But the Rui Hai International complex was only 560 meters away from a residential area and 630 meters from the railway station.
"It is impossible to improve production technology and storehouse methods over a night,"Yang said. "But governments at different levels should be able to produce an urban plan that safeguards people's homes from potential harmful plants."
In Germany, industrial facilities, or warehouses, that use toxic or store chemicals, are built in isolated areas to protect the general public. The Berlin government also stipulates that these facilities have detailed safety and rescue plans in place. Plants are constantly monitored and regular safety checks are carried out.
How can disasters such as the Tianjin port explosion be averted in the future ?
Views on this subject are mixed. He Liming, chairman of the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing, an industry body in Beijing, has pointed to the financial costs involved.
Moving chemical plants and warehouses outside of cities could prove difficult unless companies are heavily compensated
"As many chemical plants are located in the cities where land prices in China's urban area shave surged, they will not easily relocate unless they are paid the full value for the land they occupy," He said.
In addition, local governments rely on these companies to generate jobs, growth and taxes. In fact, they have become vital to domestic economies across the country.