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Rare Earth Resolution

(Beijing Review)

08:39, August 29, 2012

Su Bo, Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology, showcases pictures of a polluted rare earth mining site at a press conference on June 20 (Photo/Xinhua)

Inner Mongolia's Dalahai Village was a place of utopian beauty. With a landscape of lush green hills, exuberant grasslands and herds of sheep and cows, the village used to be the quintessential image of a nice place to live.

Today, the quaint village is gone, replaced by a barren landscape void of life. Cancer cases among the remaining local populace have been on the rise.

What's the reason for the cataclysmic change? Li Guirong, a Dalahai villager, puts the blame on the discovery of rare earths.

"We knew something was wrong sometime in the late1980s when the trees and local vegetation blossomed but didn't bear any fruit," Li said. "Later, they stopped growing at all."

Rare earths, a group of 17 elements, are valuable, non-renewable resources essential in the manufacture of a range of hi-tech products, including wind turbines, laptops and hybrid cars.

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