A worker at the site of a rare earth metals mine in Nancheng county, Jiangxi province. [Photo/Agencies]
HOHHOT - China will continue to crack down on illegal mining, processing and sales of rare earth elements, experts said on Monday.
In the 13th Five-Year period, from 2016 to 2020, Chinese ministries and departments will enhance cooperation, increase inspections, and take a zero-tolerance approach toward illegal mining of rare earth metals, said Zhou Changyi, head of the department of raw materials under the Ministry Of Industry and Information Technology.
A tracking system will also be implemented to trace the source of rare earth elements to curb illegal mining, he said.
"The next few years are an important period for the overhaul of China's rare earth industry and promoting its healthy development," he said.
China is the world's largest rare earth producer and exporter, but the industry is beset by numerous problems, such as illegal mining, smuggling and a lack of competitiveness due to weak research and development. Excessive exploration has also caused environmental damage.
"Illegal mining is the principal reason for gloominess in the industry," Zhou said.
During the 12th Five-Year Plan period, 14 illegal rare earth mines and 28 companies were closed. More than 36,000 tons of illegal rare earth products were seized, and 230 million yuan ($34.53 million) in fines were imposed, according to statistics from the Ministry Of Industry and Information Technology.
Monitoring systems have been created in key mining districts such as Baiyun Ebo in Inner Mongolia, Ganzhou in Jiangxi province, and Maoniuping in Sichuan province.