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Rare earth industry sees progress, challenges

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-08-09 11:30

BAOTOU -- China's rare earth industry has made progress since the State Council implemented a series of new policies, and more actions will be taken to ensure the industry's healthy development, a government official said Thursday.

Through joint efforts from several government departments, the rare earth industry has created a standardized management system, said Chen Yanhai, director of the Raw Materials Department under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), at the fifth China Baotou Rare Earth Industry Forum.

The forum kicked off on Thursday in the city of Baotou in North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region, which accounts for more than half of the world's output of light rare earth metals.

"Although some progress has been achieved, there are still some deep-seated problems that have yet to be solved. The situation of illegal exploitation and mining remain serious," Chen said.

Statistics from the MIIT show that illegal mining of rare earth amounted to over 40,000 tons in 2012, and illegal smelting separation of rare earth products totaled 50,000 tons.

Meanwhile, overcapacity, a low proportion of high-end products, smuggling and pollution still hamper the development of the rare earth industry.

Chen said industrial management standards and regulations, as well as pollutant emission standards and rare earth resource taxes, have been put into place to ensure the industry's healthy development, since a series of policies was implemented two years ago.

"Industrial order has been regulated following crackdowns on illegal activity in recent years," according to Chen.

Fourteen illegal mines were shut down and 14 rare earth smuggling cases involving 400 million yuan ($65 million) were investigated from 2011 to 2012, and over 4 billion yuan has been spent to strengthen environmental protection investigations in the sector.

A campaign to cut down on the illegal exploitation, production and transportation of rare earth metals will be run by the MIIT, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Environmental Protection and Ministry of Land and Resources from Aug 15 to Nov 15.

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