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China to boost protection of rare-earth elements

China aims to reinforce the protection of its rare-earth minerals through a new set of proposed rules issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in Beijing.

According to the MIIT, the new draft rules – named the ‘Regulations on Rare Earth Management’ – are intended to enhance the “production and operation” of rare-earth minerals in China and the “rational development and utilisation” of related resources.

The draft document, which is expected to be issued formally later this year, proposes new rules related to licences, regulatory responsibilities and approvals, quota levels, and related management, as well as measures to enhance the industrial chain and monitor illegal sales.

The new guidelines also look to govern the entire “industrial chain” – instead of current rules that only govern parts of it – and establish a mechanism under China’s State Council to decide and co-ordinate major rare-earth policies.

The MIIT said, “Rare earths are important strategic resources that are not renewable, and it is necessary to reinforce the full industrial chain regulations, targeting activities that are currently disrupting the healthy development of the industry and damaging the environment, such as illegal, destructive, unplanned and excessive mining, and illicit trading.”

According to China’s state media, the country produces about 80% of the world’s total supplies of rare-earth elements. However, in 2020 its exports of the elements reportedly declined to a five-year low.

In the military domain rare-earth elements are used in a range of high-tech systems, including missile systems, unmanned systems, rockets, lasers, and communications devices.

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