China Nationalizes 11 Rare Earth Mines
Source: AFP (1/20/11)
"Authorities targeted Jiangxi mines, which are rich in heavy rare earths."
Authorities have targeted mines in the eastern province of Jiangxi, which is rich in heavy rare earth elements (HREEs), as it seeks to strengthen "protection and reasonable development" of the sector, the land and resources ministry said this week.
China, which produces more than 95% of the world's rare earths, has tightened control over the metals by slashing quotas for overseas shipments, hiking export taxes and cracking down on heavily polluting mines.
The moves have raised concern overseas that China was abusing its market dominance of the 17 elements used to make everything from wind turbines to flat screen televisions.
The ministry said Monday that the 11 mines covering an area of 2,534 sq. km. were the first batch of "state planned mining zones" for rare earths.
Analysts said the move to bring the mines under state control was a key step toward consolidating the fragmented industry in the south and would likely increase the cost of REEs.
"Prices will go up once (mining) concentration rises and the state strengthens control," said Sang Yongliang, an analyst with Guotai Jun'an Securities in Shanghai.
Sang said the government may be targeting HREEs, which are more expensive than the light elements because of their scarcity.
Japanese industry said last year that China temporarily cut off rare earth exports in the midst of a diplomatic row.
Beijing has denied any political motivation for its control of the elements and has insisted the issue is an environmental one.
The commerce ministry said last month it had slashed REE export quotas by about 35% for the first six months of this year.