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China Exclusive: Experts say no more cheap rare earths from China (2)

(Xinhua)

15:07, March 13, 2012

Xunwu county in east China's Jiangxi province is a major production base for ionic rare earths.

Lavish exploitation of the metals since the 1970s has not only impeded local economic development, but also posed a threat to drinking water safety in neighboring Guangdong province, said Liao Liping, the county's deputy magistrate, another lawmaker attending the parliamentary session in Beijing.

"It would cost about 1 billion yuan (158.7 million U.S. dollars) to restore the ecosystems of those obsolete rare earth mines," said Liao Liping.

In order to control environmental damage and protect the resources, China has suspended the issuance of new licenses for rare earth prospecting and mining, imposed production caps and export quotas, and announced tougher environmental standards for rare earth production.

"What can be sure is that the environmental threshold for the mining of rare earths will be higher and higher in the future," said Lei Yuanjiang, another NPC deputy who is vice director of the Jiangxi Environmental Protection Department.

The shift of China's policy over rare earths will have a great impact on the prices of the metals, experts say.

Liao Jinqiu said China needs to regulate the exploitation of rare earths and unify its exports so as to secure a say in the pricing of the commodities.

"We must cut the exploitation of rare earths as we have to protect our environment, and the change in supply will definitely bring about a price fluctuation," Liao said.

"It is time to put an end to the era of cheap rare earths," he said.

【1】 【2】

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