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Luannan County in Hebei Province: small steel shovel business grows into a big industry



A steel shovel is a quite ordinary tool in people's lives, but in Luannan county, Tangshan city, North China’s Hebei province, it has become a pillar industry to boost local economy.

The products produced in Luannan has accounted for 85 percent of the market in China and captured over 90 percent of the country’s total steel shovel export.

In 2019, Songdaokou town, core of the steel shovel production in the county, produced as many as 280 million steel shovels and hardware tools. With a total population of 53,000, the town’s 22,000 local people, or 41.5 percent of population, worked for the industry.

Having a well-deserved name "China Steel Shovel Town", Songdaokou has developed its steel shovel business into a thriving industry, going through a long and difficult process of growth.

As early jn the 1980s, then four farmers in Luannan bought a large number of scrap steel shovels from Northeast China at a low price. After their refurbishment, the scrap steel shovels became the same popular as new steel shovel products in the market. Seeing it a good business opportunity, more residents in the town joined them. Starting from the family workshop refurbishing steel shovels in a small scale, local people gradually changed their way of doing business to producing steel shovels.

By the 1990s, production of steel shovels had been in larger scale in Songdaokou, and the town had more than1,000 steel shovel factories and rolling mills at its peak. As fierce competition grew in terms of talents, raw materials, markets, and prices, most of the steel shovel companies were forced to close down and only those with high technology, good customer relationships, and in large scale survived.

With the advantage of steel shovel production for over a decade, in 2002, the town government established an industrial park in a bid to facilitate the standardized development of the industry.

Covering an area of 86.67 hectares, the industrial park has formed a complete industrial chain, including waste rails utilization, shovels rolling, and shovels follow-up processing as well as related industries. In 2006, the government expanded the park to 200 hectares, further increasing its steel shovels annual production capacity.


At present, Luannan has established a large industrial cluster with more than 180 enterprises, and among them 13 are enterprises above designated size. The number of the town’s output of steel shovels and hardware tools, which are of more than 1,000 varieties in 14 categories, has reached 280 million annually. The steel shovel industry has realized annual revenue of 11 billion yuan ($1.63 billion) and tax of 520 million yuan.

So far, 26 companies in the county have exported steel shovel products to more than 140 countries and regions, earning nearly $80 million annually.

In addition, Luannan has had many national and provincial well-known trademarks and brands, and since 2010, four shovel products manufacturers have been recognized as "Hebei Province Industrial Cluster Leading Enterprises" by the Department of Industry and Information Technology of Hebei Province.

Famous for the thriving steel shovel industry, Songdaokou has also won recognition as a characteristic town in Hebei.

After more than 40 years of growth, the town has embarked on an industrial development track. It focuses on small steel shovels but eyes the big market.

At present, Songdaokou strives to promote its steel shovel industrial cluster, increasing efforts in facilities construction, boosting transformation and upgrading of enterprises, and advocating environmental protection for sustainable growth.

The town will invest 2.24 billion yuan in infrastructure improvement from 2017 to 2022, including optimizing industrial structure, building an exhibition hall, a steel spade museum, a business platform, and a logistics distribution center as well as developing leisure agriculture, and improving roads, sewage, and greening facilities.

It has made use of key projects to advance industrial transformation. In 2020, Songdaokou will implement five key industrial projects with a total planned investment of 570 million yuan. Among them, two are continued projects and three are new ones, with an investment of 310 million yuan and 260 million yuan, respectively.

In addition, Luannan is paying more attention to environmental protection for the sustainable development of the industrial cluster. It continues to promote advanced and applicable environment-friendly technologies in production, such as coal-to-gas, carbon adsorption, electric energy substitution, water recycling, and nitrite recovery, so as to reduce pollutant discharge concentration and total amount.

All of the 85 steel shovel enterprises in the county have conducted environmental assessment procedures and obtained the sewage permits. With good results in energy conservation, emission reduction, and air pollution prevention, they have laid a solid foundation for the expansion and sustainable development of the industry.

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