China caps emissions for rare earth producers

08:28, March 02, 2011      

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Beijing has set tougher regulations of environmental protection in guiding the rare earths sector, after years of wild development.

Strident emission limits on rare earth mining and production have been meted out by the central government. The caps on about 15 pollutants will apply to all industry players including miners and smelters of rare earth alloys, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said Monday.

"The implementation of the mandatory standards will help raise the threshold for entering the rare earth industry, and promote the sustainable and healthy development of the sector," said a ministry statement.

Analysts say the new regulations will make the rare earth industry more environment-friendly, while helping consolidate the sector.

The rules will take effect from October 1 for new rare earth projects. However, existing miners and producers have until the beginning of 2014 to comply with the new standards, said the statement.

Experts said the regulations would likely increase production costs and push up export prices of the metals -- a collection of 17 elements that have become vital elements in products ranging from broad screen televisions, wind turbines to missiles.

Until now China has had lax restrictions on emissions in the rare earth industry and therefore pollutants generated by the sector "had not been effectively controlled", the environment ministry said.

Chinese rare earth producers said that it is convenient for the ministry to set a grace period of three years for them to comply with the new standards, though the regulations will inevitably increase their mining and production costs, as they will have to add investment and phase in new pollutant treating facilities.

Wu Xiaoqing, a deputy minister of the ministry, estimated that the industry will neeed at least 1.5 billion yuan ($229 million) in investment to build sewage treatment facilities, which is expected to incur annual running costs of 280 million yuan.

People's Daily Online


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