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China's Rare Earth Industry Coming under Greater Environmental Scrutiny

China is planning to launch environmental checks for the rare earth industry this year to ensure environmental protection – a move that has been met with criticism from the local industry.

According to a statement made by the Ministry of Environmental Protection last April, China plans to launch a string of environmental checks for the rare earth industry that will impose higher environmental standards on them, reported China Securities Journal.

The ministry noted that local environmental departments will not approve environmental evaluation reports for new projects by companies that cheat or do not pass the checks.

These checks will include self-checks by the companies themselves, preliminary checks by provincial environmental protection authorities, and final checks by the ministry.

In anticipation of its launch, the industry is reportedly busy upgrading their production equipment and installing environmental protection systems to meet the future standards to be set by the country. The deputy secretary-general cited that recent price hikes in rare earth metals provided companies with the capital to upgrade their production techniques.

However, according to industry representatives, the effects of the environmental protection checks might be weakened as the ministry has not issued detailed penalty rules and that these measures taken by the government barely poses a threat to those companies that have no plan to expand production or go public.

In addition, they pointed out that the ministry has yet to standardize pollutant discharge techniques of the rare earth industry. This lack of authoritative instructions may also lead to an adverse impact on the effects of the checks.

These rare earth minerals, which are often used in smart phones and hybrid vehicles, cause heavy environmental pollution due to exploration methods.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology responded to allegations that the Chinese government was manipulating rare earth prices, with Zhu Hongren, the chief engineer and spokesman for the ministry, saying that the prices were formerly low and are now just reflecting market conditions, reported China Daily.

The chief engineer said that it was a misunderstanding that Chinese government manipulation had caused the surge in prices.

When it comes to world supply of rare earth minerals, China supplies more than 90 percent of them, but controls only about 36 percent of the world’s deposits.

Industry experts said that more and more countries are exploring their own supply of rare earth metals – a solution that can help ease tight-supply situations and ease demand. (L.J. Polintan)

By. Ecoseed


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