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A two-day seminar on raw materials wrapped up in Xiamen on Tuesday. During the event, China's Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology announced the country would be taking a new, more sustainable stance towards the exploitation of rare earth.
China will abandon large scale mining of rare earth in order to promote sustainability and avoid resource wastage. That’s according to Su Bo, China’s Vice Minister of Industry and IT, speaking at an industry seminar in Xiamen.
The statement comes at a critical time for the rare earth industry, following the filing of a joint WTO complaint by the U.S, EU and Japan. Unsurprisingly, the Vice Minister says China objects to the dispute - and that its export quota for rare earth is set with regard to environmental factors and the path to sustainable growth.
Rare earth minerals are critical to the high-tech industry, used in everything from missile systems to smartphones to electric cars. But the Vice Minister says, it’s the market - and not the government - that determines pricing for the coveted minerals.
Su Bo said: "We have never asked any company to set the price we want. Prices of over 97 percent of our rare earth products are market oriented."
Su Bo also warned, the over-exploitation of rare earth has taken a toll on the local environment - and that the environmental costs far exceed the profits of rare earth.
Su said: "Rational exploitation of rare earth should meet environmental standards, and follow a sustainable growth path, not large-scale mining activities. Improper exploitation will also undermine the value of rare earth. "
To curb undesirable mining activities, China suspended the issuance of new licenses for the sector’s prospecting and mining, imposed production caps and export quotas, and announced tougher environment standards for rare earth production. The country produces more than 95 percent of global rare earth supplies, with reserves that account for around 36 percent of the world’s total.