Xinjiang Nonferrous Metal Industry Co.
Raw materials, metals
Xinjiang Nonferrous Metal Industry Group is a state-owned mining, smelting, and processing company that concentrates on some of the automotive industry’s most critical raw materials, including copper, zinc, lithium, gold, and nickel. All of Xinjiang Nonferrous’s mining and processing is undertaken in the XUAR. Through its subsidiary Xinxin Mining, Xinjiang Nonferrous has rights to the Yakesi, Kalatongke, Hami Jubao, and Hami Hexin Mines. The company has its own smelting facilities at Xinjiang Wuxin Copper Co., but it also sells copper to be smelted elsewhere.
Copper-nickel plate and gold plate generated over 83% of Xinjiang Nonferrous’s annual revenue in the first quarter of 2021.
Participation in Repressive Government Programs
As a state-owned corporation, Xinjiang Nonferrous has played a substantial role in the XUAR government’s programs to match companies with particular villages to implement what the government euphemistically calls “poverty alleviation schemes.” One of those schemes is a coercive land transfer program, by which the company facilitates the transfer of whole villages worth of individually held land over to large cooperatives, typically run by just a handful of selected farmers in the area. Bostan Village in Qaghiliq County was one such village, with Xinjiang Nonferrous facilitating the transfer of nearly 330 acres (2000 mu) of land, belonging to 196 households over to Chenguang Biotech. The workers in that town were then rendered unemployed, marked as “surplus labor” and “transferred” to work in factories and farms.
The company also participates in the fanghuiju surveillance and cultural eradication program. One such program poses as a village beautification project, but beautification entails tearing down Uyghur traditional homes, replacing them with identical tract homes with furnishings assigned by the government, and creating courtyard spaces that are antithetical to family gathering. As early as 2016, representatives of Xinjiang Nonferrous set up an after-school program for children in one village where children were taught Chinese and indoctrinated on “going to college in inner China, new concepts and ideas, about hard work, starting a business and making money, and about the dangers of religious extremist thinking” and supports programs that “export” labor out of the town to the rest of the country. In 2020, Xinjiang Nonferrous’ Hatu Gold Mine reported that it had been sending company cadres to the company’s paired villages for two years, during which time, cadres “live along with the villagers day and night, form relatives with them, eat, live and work together.” The report continues “The cadres stationed in the village help them get rid of outdated and backward ideological concepts.”
Participation in Labor Transfer Program
The company also facilitates so-called “labor transfers” for the people living in the villages with which it is paired. Xinjiang Nonferrous and other state-owned enterprises are expected to play a “leading role” in implementing the government’s “surplus labor” programs. The subsidiaries are expected to “actively cooperate with the local government to . . .drive the employment of surrounding surplus labor.” Xinjiang Nonferrous not only brings in laborers to its own factories but helps to facilitate the programs more broadly. Starting in 2017, Xinjiang Nonferrous directed the company’s fanghuiju teams to establish employment bases in the company’s paired villages and to ensure that everyone who was able to work was assigned to a job. Some of those people identified as “surplus labor” were assigned to work in satellite factories making apparel or agricultural products near their homes or in cooperatives set up by Xinjiang Nonferrous. Others were “absorbed” by local enterprises including Xinjiang Nonferrous itself – across the company’s media reports, the company boasted that between 2017 and 2020, it had facilitated as many as 644 such situations.
Xinjiang Nonferrous Metals Group’s subsidiary Xinjiang Yakesi Resources Development Co. (新疆亚克斯资源开发股份有限公司), in the distant Huangshan mining area, appears to have been a testing ground for labor transfers in 2017. As a state-owned enterprise, it served as a sort of architect of the program. According to the Xinjiang Nonferrous’s own social media posts, the company assigned a working group to handle the labor transfers and to implement the directives of the central government regarding transferred laborers from the south of the XUAR. The company described in great detail its deliberations to create an “Overall Plan for Pre-job Training for Students in Southern Xinjiang,” which required that all transferred laborers be subject to six full months of “systematic” training that included meetings to denounce so-called “two-face” people and the “three evil forces” of extremism, separatism, and terrorism, lectures on religious extremism, student essay recitations (likely related to denouncing religious extremism and confessing past actions now deemed illicit), and letter writing to workers’ hometowns to express gratitude to the party and to Xinjiang Nonferrous. The teaching students were subjected to included “basic Chinese text learning, paramilitary training, [full labor], learning to sign popular songs, legal education, political learning, ideological education, patriotism education, gratitude education, rules and regulations, and civilized etiquette,” as well as “ethnic unity education.” When students were not successful in learning these things, it appears they (and their teachers) were required to stay extra hours to continue the tutelage. Student success was judged regularly, and the company developed a punitive system that fined both the students and the teachers when the students did not successfully learn their lessons, with a potential loss of up to CNY 1000 in salary. Students who “violated the rules and regulations” were punished even more severely. So-called “trainees” had been fined 72 times for violations of the rules, totaling a loss of CNY 10,000 collectively. The money taken from the students who broke the rules was periodically allocated as rewards for outstanding students. Xinjiang Nonferrous claimed that “this has played a positive role in motivating students to study hard and make progress together.” While the transferred laborers were still in training, they were forced to perform serious manual labor, including carrying out ball mill cleaning (usually done with a chemical solvent such as Chloroethene, which may cause significant harm to humans if inhaled or ingested.) They also carried out groundskeeping in the mining area, clearing acres of trees, laying drip irrigation, and cleaning the company’s facilities. According to the company’s own reporting, at least nineteen of the approximately forty transferred laborers in the first group fell ill during the six months of their training.
The company also reported significant sacrifices made on the part of the “teachers” of these trainings, who also appear to be Uyghur based on their names. The article’s sympathetic author is, in fact, one of the teachers named in the piece. It appears that the teachers may also been subjected to coercion and may not have been allowed to leave the training center. The teachers suffered from heart disease, stomach ailments, vascular issues, and diabetes. Rather than offer leave, the company commended them for continuing to work through major health issues. One teacher’s daughter fell and was injured at school but she could not return home to assist the girl. Others had been forced to abandon their elderly relatives or missed significant moments in their families’ lives.
In March of 2017, Xinjiang Nonferrous brought in over one hundred people from Keriya County as part of a government scheme to transfer 100,000 workers in three years. In March 2020, at the height of COVID-19 lockdowns in China, Xinjiang Nonferrous was again part of a major government transfer of laborers from southern XUAR to maintain production during the lockdown. During five weeks in March and April of 2020 alone, Xinjiang Nonferrous brought in 145 “surplus laborers” between the ages of 24 and 48 from southern XUAR, “under the organization of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) of the XUAR By this time, the transferred laborers were subjected to three months of on-site Chinese-language and ideological training that included “militarization training, political study, pre-job training, and education in patriotism and “loving Xinjiang.” The company held a symposium in April of 2020 to extol the virtues of the government labor transfer program, where workers were told that “the Han nationality cannot be separated from the ethnic minorities, and the ethnic minorities cannot do without the Han nationality.”
As Xinjiang Nonferrous expands its mining footprint across the Uyghur Region, the company promises that it will employ “local surplus labor,” which suggests constantly increasing engagement in labor transfer schemes.