China is responsible for at least 90 percent of the international supply of rare earth elements, a group of 17 metals used in high-tech and strategic industries like renewable energy and defense.
However, the nation has spent the last decade trying to bring”order” to the sector by closing down illegal mines, restricting exports and domestic production. Small private firms are shut down and control over the sector has been placed in the hands of six state-owned mining teams.
China has spent the last ten years trying to bring”order” to the rare earths sector by shutting down illegal mines, restricting exports and domestic production.
Regulation and oversight in the sector had improved, but illegal mining and production continued to disrupt”market order” and harm the interests of legitimate businesses, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said in a notice.
MIIT said it would step up efforts to prohibit illegal mining and recycling of rare earth materials, and ensure that unauthorized facilities are completely eliminated.
Additionally, it will set a”traceability system” to stop buyers from using illegal materials and ensure that manufacturers do not exceed the output target, and will also suspend licenses of law-breaking companies.
The rare earth market has contaminated considerable quantities of land and water in major producing regions such as Inner Mongolia and Jiangxi, and the ministry pledged to provide more support to clean up the industry and reduce waste discharges.
The ministry said it would work to support the growth of high-end rare earth products and establish a new research centre to market new applications and improve innovation and competitiveness.
China launched the crackdown on the rare earth sector in 2009, with police claiming that illegal activities drove down international prices and made it impossible to pay the huge environmental costs of production.
However, foreign governments accused Beijing of using its chokehold over global supplies to get unfair political and economic leverage.