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China to cap annual rare earth mining

CHINA said yesterday that it will limit its annual mining of rare earth to 140,000 tons by 2020 in its latest attempt to overhaul the sector and ensure its sound development.

The government will continue to investigate and apprehend anyone involved in illegal mining, processing or trade in rare earth metals and better manage market access, according to a rare earth development plan for the 2016-2020 period, released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Rare earth comprises a class of 17 mineral elements, which are some of the most sought-after metals due to their vital role in green technologies such as wind turbines and car batteries. They are also used for military purposes.

China is the world’s largest rare earth producer and exporter, but the industry is beset by myriad problems, such as illegal mining, smuggling and a lack of competitiveness due to weak research and development.

Excessive exploration has also caused environmental damage.

To upgrade the industry, MIIT plans to improve efficiency across resource management and technological innovation by 2020.

During the 12th Five-Year (2011-2015) Plan period, 14 illegal rare earth mines and 28 firms were closed. Over 36,000 tons of illegal rare earth products were seized, and 230 million yuan in fines were imposed, according to MIIT statistics.



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