By Tom Daly

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Yunnan province said on Sunday it would set aside 1 billion yuan ($141.22 million) to help businesses stockpile 800,000 tonnes of nonferrous metal as part of efforts to boost its real economy following the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The funds will be used to cover interest on bank loans taken out for the one-year stockpiling drive, which will include copper, aluminium, lead, zinc, tin, as well as minor metals germanium and indium and other nonferrous metals, the provincial government said on its website.

Stockpiling has been suggested by the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association as a way to ease pressure on smelters hit by a slump in demand and plunging metals prices.

Yunnan, in southwest China, is home to major metal producers Yunnan Copper, Yunnan Aluminium and Yunnan Chihong Zinc & Germanium, all of which are under state-owned group Chinalco, as well as Yunnan Tin, the world’s biggest refined tin producer.

The money pledged will cover 80% of the interest on loans taken out to stockpile tin, germanium and indium, and 60% of the interest on loans to buy copper, aluminium, lead and zinc, the statement said.

Among other economic support measures outlined by the Yunnan government was a reduction in the cost of electricity and gas for some sectors – except high power-consuming industries – from Feb. 1 until the end of the year.

Hydropower-rich Yunnan has become a popular destination for Chinese aluminium smelters looking to use a cleaner source of electricity for the energy-intensive smelting process.

($1 = 7.0813 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Tom Daly and Min Zhang)