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China tightens rare-earth regulation to support green and technological advancements

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China’s approval of a significant new regulation on rare-earth elements is poised to enhance the sector’s green and high-quality development amid increasing demand for these critical materials in emerging industries such as new energy vehicles. Industry experts and executives shared their insights on Sunday following the announcement.

The regulation, sanctioned on Saturday by the State Council, China’s Cabinet, encompasses the mining, smelting, and trading of rare-earth metals and alloys. These elements are vital for low-carbon technologies, including the manufacturing of electric vehicles and high-tech products like smartphones.

Encouraging innovation and sustainability

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The regulation emphasizes the importance of fostering research, development, and the application of new technologies, products, materials, and equipment within the rare-earth industry. The Chinese government aims to implement “unified planning” for the sector’s growth, ensuring a balanced focus on resource conservation and utilization. The regulation will come into effect on October 1.

Ge Honglin, Party Secretary and President of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association, highlighted the essential role of rare-earth elements, often referred to as “industrial vitamins,” in high-tech and defense industries. He noted that the new regulation addresses critical challenges such as resource conservation, technological innovation, and industry order.

“China‚Äôs rare-earth industry faces significant challenges, including protective resource development, original technological innovation, and regulatory order,” Ge said. “The new regulation is designed to tackle these challenges.”

Meeting global demand

China has been instrumental in meeting both domestic and global demand for rare-earth elements, resulting in substantial pressure on the country’s natural resources. Last year, China accounted for approximately 60% of global rare-earth mining and nearly 90% of processing and refining, according to the International Energy Agency.

The new regulation underscores the necessity for sustainable resource development and advocates for the planned utilization of rare-earth elements to promote the sector’s green and high-quality advancement, Ge emphasized.

Strict measures against illegal mining

The regulation also introduces stringent measures against illegal rare-earth mining. It specifies that rare-earth materials belong to the nation, and any attempt to acquire them illegally will be subject to punishment.

A proposed tracking system for rare-earth elements will require companies involved in mining, smelting, separation, and the export of these materials to establish a comprehensive record of their product flow.

Liu Peixun, Deputy General Manager of Baogang Group, one of the largest rare-earth production and research centers located in North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, described the regulation as a “milestone” in the legislative control of rare-earth resources.

“This is the first time China is regulating the development and utilization of rare-earth resources through legislation, marking a significant milestone for companies in the sector,” Liu said. “Inspired by these efforts, our company will work to make rare-earth production more eco-friendly, enhance the intelligence of related equipment, and upgrade technologies to add value to rare-earth products.”

Liu also mentioned that Baogang Group is intensifying efforts to support the creation of a national-level rare-earth trade center.

In summary, the newly approved regulation is a pivotal step in promoting the sustainable and high-quality development of China’s rare-earth industry, aligning with global environmental and technological advancements.

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