Jiyuan is a sub-prefecture-level city in northwestern Henan province. It borders the prefecture-level cities of Jiaozuo and Luoyang to the east and southwest respectively, as well as the province of Shanxi to the north. It lies 60 miles northwest of the provincial capital of Zhengzhou.
Henan Yuguang Gold and Lead Co., Ltd, formerly as Jiyuan Lead Company, was established in 1957 by the government of Jiyuan City which is in Henan Province. The company then became a subsidiary of Henan Yuguang Gold & Lead Group Co., Ltd., and was listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSX) in July 2002. Lead was a booming industry in a rapidly industrializing country. As automobile use soared in China, so did demand for the electrolytic lead needed for batteries. The lead smelters in Jiyuan also imported ores to be refined into electrolytic lead and exported to the United States and Europe. 
Beside state-owned enterprise Yuguang, several other enterprises also got involved in the lead industry later, especially when the boom in metals prices had made investment in mines and smelters very profitable. Consequently, dangerously polluting plants had sprung up across the Chinese countryside. In Jiyuan City, Wanyang Smelting Group which was established in 2001, and Jinli Smelting which was established in 2003, as well as many small refining lead producers joined in the business, while most of those smelters were built by the local villagers through fund-raising and shareholding. Local officials, who worry about losing a large taxpayer and employer and may even have a stake in the projects, often turn a blind eye to safety and environmental violations. 
After a lead poisoning scandal was exposed in neighboring Shaanxi province , from the end of August 2009, the health bureau of Jiyuan city, initiated the blood tests for 2,743 children under the age of 14, who lived near three major smelters, and 968 of them had excessive blood lead levels (BLLs).  Symptoms of excessive BLLs or lead poisoning may include abdominal pain, constipation, headaches, irritability, memory problems, inability to have children, and tingling in the hands and feet. It causes almost 10% of intellectual disability of otherwise unknown cause and can result in behavioral problems. Some of the effects are permanent. In severe cases anemia, seizures, coma, or death may occur. Exposure to lead can occur by contaminated air, water, dust, food, or consumer products. Children are at greater risk as they are more likely to put objects in their mouth such as those that contain lead paint and absorb a greater proportion of the lead that they eat.  The news shocked the villagers and they are all worried about the health of their kids. Some people recalled that in their 30s and 40s they had to complain of unpredictable senior moments: They went to the store and couldn't remember what they wanted to buy, or they forgot the names of old friends. The children lost so much weight that they looked like they’re shrinking instead of growing. The leaves dropped from the trees throughout the year -- not just autumn -- and the corn crop was stunted. Piglets were stillborn.  Hundreds of local residents mainly from Shibin Village demonstrated in front of the smelters late on 23 September 2009, holding banners saying, "Without health, what are we farming for?" and "Give us back blue sky, give us back clean water", demanding suspension of the lead smelters. 
Subsequently, the city government suspended production at 32 of the 35 electrolytic lead plants and on the pollution-prone production lines of the other three major plants. Environment protection inspectors were stationed in the three big plants: Yuguang Gold and Lead Group, Wanyang Smelter Group and Jinli Smelting. 10 villages in Kejing Town, Chengliu Town and Sili Town within 1,000 meters of Yuguang Gold and Lead, Wanyang Group and Jinli Lead Industry were designated as protection zones. As of October 14, 1,008 of the 3,108 children tested had BLLs above 250 micrograms.  Because the company wanted the plants to reopen as soon as possible, local authorities were to move elementary and middle school students to another school in Jiyuan, offering nutritional therapy to the children most seriously affected. All children living within 1 km of the smelters have been moved away, with allowances and assistance in education provided by the government. Some children younger than 6 were living in a local hotel, and the government had opened a kindergarten for them.  Local officials have also offered living stipends totaling CNY 720 per month (about USD 100) for families with small children who wish to move away from the most heavily polluted areas, but for many residents the offer is inadequate. Adults have also been tested but some residents suspect that doctors have been ordered to underreport cases of adult lead poisoning. 
Both the board chairman of Yuguang Gold and Lead Group (China's largest lead produce) and the mayor of Jiyuan city admitted bearing responsibility for the pollution and the long-term accumulation of pollution over the past decades as well as the inappropriate distance between the plants and the residential areas. It was reported that in 2004, Jiyuan City eliminated 72 frying pans and according to industrial policy, many small lead factories in Jiyuan should be closed several years before 2009, but the policy was not fully implemented, making profiteering and the pollution of 32 small smelters have continued. In early October 2009, they also tried to organize a trip by 10 representatives of villagers to Fengxiang, Shaanxi Province in a move to ease the villagers' anxieties, but later it was canceled since Fengxiang was worried that it would complicate both incidents if people from the two provinces united together to mobilize protests. 
On 16 October, 2009, the government of Jiyuan, announced plans to move 15,000 residents away from the threat of lead poisoning. The mass relocation would cost CNY 1 billion (~ USD 143 million), of which 70 percent would be undertaken by the government and smelters and the other 30 percent by local residents. The government was looking for sites for the resettlement. 
Besides mass relocation expenditure and damage on local people's health, smelters in Jiyuan was still facing complaints from local residents. Yang Anguo, board chairman of China's biggest lead smelter Yuguang Gold and Lead Group, had mixed feelings when he saw local villagers gathered to protest in front of his plant. It was the also the local residents who beat drums and gongs to welcome the factory to their land 23 years before the outrage of lead poisoning in 2009, when Yuguang Gold and Lead Group had grown from a plant with an annual output of about 10 million yuan into the world's second largest lead smelter with an annual sales of more than 10 billion yuan. 
More than 10,000 people in this city with a population of 670,000 are directly employed in the city's 35 lead smelters, and more than 20,000 others work indirectly for the smelters. Local villagers in Jiyuan had been in good relations with lead smelters, as many of them were employed by the group and paid well.  They didn’t have much choice because the land in their villages had been expropriated for smelters. “We sort of knew it was dangerous, but the lead factories were the only ones that paid on time and provided stable work.”  However, the relations had turned sour. As people said in Shiniu Village, which is near Wanyang Smeltery Group "A few people got rich, but the whole village is poisoned. How can we ignore people's health in the process of economic development?" Officials also realized that "In the pursuit of wealth, neither the company nor local people have given due attention to pollution. The incident (of excessive lead level) is a lesson for the government, company and local people." 
But before it brought illness, the lead brought money. In the villages near the smelters, it is not uncommon to go down narrow dirt alleys and enter a home with nice tile floors, flat-screen TVs and leather sofas. And despite their anger over their situation, many of the residents say they would leave the villages of their ancestors rather than force the factories to close. “They will knock down our village and expand the factory and put us somewhere else,” a villager said. “Maybe the old people won’t want to move, but the rest of us are happy to go.” “There is no reason to be sentimental about it. There is nothing on this land anymore -- even the grass doesn’t grow.” 
There were many kinds of complaints from the local residents. Some parents complained about the care, treatment, and compensation for the poisoned children, some villagers complained about the standard of “1,000 meters” and people who were living outside the protection zone also complained that they would not be compensated and relocated although they were also affected by the lead poisoning. Some villagers would not like to move out as they would lose their jobs or businesses.  A local website, the Jiyuan Discussion Forum, was blocked and posts by villagers were deleted because they criticized the authorities.