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Coronavirus exposes China's copper industry to new risk

Smelters are running out of space to store caustic sulfuric acid byproduct

A worker unloads copper at a Chinese factory. Supplies of sulfuric acid -- a byproduct of the smelting process -- will continue to rise as China increases domestic production of the metal.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- The Chinese copper industry, stung by a nationwide economic slowdown due to the new coronavirus, has been forced to store vast amounts of sulfuric acid that is produced as a byproduct of the smelting process then normally sold.

The problem has become so acute that smelters may have to curb operations if they run out of space to store the dangerous and highly corrosive substance.

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