SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Authorities in China's northern province of Hebei found privately owned steelmaker Hebei Jingye Group lacked environmental protection facilities and had tampered with instruments monitoring discharges, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported on Friday.
It quoted a senior environmental official threatening to prosecute the firm's executives if they do not bring the steelmaker in line with environmental rules.
The Chinese government recently ordered 28 northern cities, including some in top steel-producing Hebei province, to clamp down during autumn and winter on heavy pollution that blankets the region, as homes crank up midwinter heating by drawing on the nation's coal-fired power.
The newspaper said Hebei launched a half-year campaign to battle air pollution this month, and that so far 66 firms had been temporarily suspended, two were closed permanently for illegal operations, and 640 were hit with fines amounting to 77 million yuan ($11.6 million).
Hebei Jingye, which the newspaper described as one of the province's biggest iron and steel companies, "will be a focus in the next inspection round", it quoted the deputy director of the provincial environmental protection bureau as saying.
"If they still don't obey the environmental rules, their executives will be turned over to public security departments for criminal punishment by law," official Ren Liqiang was quoted as saying.
Most of the firms that had been penalized so far were in major industries, including iron and steel, coking, glass and construction, it said.
"We didn't expect big firms would still take chances to escape regulations," it quoted Ren as saying.
(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Michael Perry)