SHANGHANG, Fujian - The Zijin Mining Group, China's largest gold producer, has been accused of attempting to bribe journalists to cover up a wastewater leak in Shanghang, East China's Fujian province.
The Zijinshan Copper Mine, which is run by the group, suffered a wastewater leak, which went straight into the Tingjiang River on July 3, causing severe pollution that killed at least 1,890 tons of fish, according to local authorities.
The Fujian office of New Finance Economics magazine found that an extra 60,000 yuan ($8,851) was deposited into its bank account on July 8, five days after the leak, and the remitter was Zijin Mining Group, the First Financial Daily said in a report on Monday.
On July 4, one day after the leak, the magazine had sent a reporter to Shanghang to investigate the incident.
The head of the magazine's Fujian office, who was not named in the report, was quoted as saying: "I called the Zijin Mining (Group) and was told the money was paid for advertising expense, and also said we didn't have to publish anything for them." The office later returned the entire amount to the mining giant because they "knew what the money was meant for", the report said.
Xinhua News Agency officially exposed the leakage on July 12, attracting reporters from some 20 other media organizations to Shanghang.
Six media groups said they rejected Zijing's offer of money to hush up the matter, according to the report.
One of the journalists told China Daily that an employee of Zijin Mining visited him at midnight on July 15 and handed him an envelope.
"I saw at least 5,000 yuan in the open envelope. The man said he was a staff member of the press department of Zijin Mining. He threw the envelope on the table and left," said the journalist, who did not want to be named.
He then submitted the money to the Longyan government, which administrates Shanghang county.
An official with the Longyan government confirmed they received the money, which was then returned to the Zijin Mining Group.
Zijin Mining has denied offering bribes.
"I've never done that. What the journalist said has ruined my reputation. If I have done such things, I have committed a crime," Zou Yongming, head of the press department of Zijin Mining, said on Monday.
"I hope reporters who claim I have tried to bribe them could come out with evidence such as sound recording," he said.
Zou said he had never heard of the New Finance Economics magazine, which claimed that Zijin Mining deposited 60,000 yuan in its bank account.
But Chen Qiang, a China Youth Daily reporter, wrote in his blog on Monday that Zou had contacted him on Sunday afternoon to help a reporter from the New Finance Economics get some information, indicating Zou knew of the magazine.
Reporters from China National Radio and the China Youth Daily told China Daily on Monday that they had not been offered bribes from Zijin Mining.
However, China Daily spotted a 150,000-yuan receipt on Zou's desk that was titled "advertising fee for local media".