Rare earth industry may face tougher ecological standards

15:47, January 06, 2011      

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New national standards for pollutants discharged by the rare earth industry are pending the approval of the Standardization Administration of China and are expected to be released this year, according to today's Oriental Morning Post, which quoted an expert who helped draft the standards.

Wang Guozhen, former deputy director of the China Nonferrous Metal Industry Association, noted that the environmental costs of the rare earth industry will double after the implementation of the new standards, which are much stricter than previous ones.

China's Ministry of Environmental Protection approved the standard on Dec. 30, 2010, according to the ministry's website.

Wang said the low prices of China's rare earth metals were mainly the result of the lack of environmental protection costs under previous standards.

Around 2003, several foreign companies, including U.S.-based Molycorp Minerals and France-based Rhodia Group, ceased production at their rare earth mines due to environmental and costs issues.

Wang said that many domestic rare earth mills cannot reach the new standard, which restricts the emission limits.

"Judging from the draft of the standard, 90 percent of China's rare earth producers cannot reach the requirements," an industrial expert told the Economic Observer.

Rare earth metals are a collection of 17 chemical elements and are key materials for some high-tech products and military utilities. In the past 15 years, China's rare earth exports accounted for 90 percent of overall global rare earth export volume.

By People's Daily Online

(Editor:祁澍文)

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