China to reduce rare earth export quota

China has said that it will cut the its quota of rare earth material exports in order to cut pollution, as well as releasing new industry standards.

China, which is the world’s largest supplier of the much coveted materials with a near monopoly of 97 percent of the global supply, will further drop its quota by 35 percent in the first half of 2011 as compared to the same time last year, writes Reuters.

The Chinese Minister of Land and Resource, Xu Shaoshi, released a statement via a webcast on the ministry’s website declaring that China will “strengthen the supervision and management of mineral resources mining … and deepen control over rare earth mining capacity and extraction.”

It was also announced that new environmental standards would be put in place in order to reduce the amount of pollutants in each litre of waste water according to China Daily, with the new guidelines being described as stringent by an expert involved in writing them.

The rules mean that levels of ammonia nitrogen would be cut from 25 milligrams to 15 milligrams per litre, as well as radioactive elements and phosphorous emissions being reduced, with the regulations being put in place as soon as next month.

Furthermore a rare earth industry association is being considered by authorities, alongside a governmental unit to prevent mining abuses.

There has been much tension over the past few months with regards to Chinese export policy of the materials which are widely used in many new technologies, such as touch screens, LCD displays and clean tech such as electric cars, meaning that other countries such as the US have complained about the withholding of vital resources.

This has even lead to the US threatening to take a complaint to the World Trade Organisation.

A Japanese trade minister also said this week that he will visit China this month to discuss the securing of enough rare earths to meet Japanese requirements.

China on the other hand have been saying that it is up to other countries to take their own share of the burden of mining the rare earths, as over-exporting has led to the damaging of the environment and depletion of its resources. 

This has led to a recent clamour by countries to produce their own rare earths, as prices of various high tech products are set to rise with China tightening its stranglehold on the coveted resources.

How much of this environmentally-friendly posturing is actually authentic is unclear with the country not exactly renowned for its eco-friendly attitude at times, though it has made much progress with renewable energy.