Gov’t official defends China’s rare earth regulation

April 25, 2012 (Source: Xinhua) — A government official said Wednesday that China’s moves to regulate its rare earth industry are aimed at protecting the environment and sustaining growth, pledging to actively respond to a request for consultation by western countries within the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework.

At a regular press conference, Zhu Hongren, chief engineer of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), reiterated that comprehensive measures to regulate China’s rare earth industry, including production caps, export quota cuts and stricter emission standards, are in line with WTO rules.

“The disorderly development of the rare earth industry has caused enormous damage to the environment,” Zhu said, warning that the environment will suffer greatly if rare earth exploitation is not regulated.

He said China’s regulations are created after fully considering the ability of the environment to ensure effective supplies of rare earth metals.

He added that China is willing to cooperate with foreign companies in recycling rare earth metals and developing substitutes for the metals.

On March 13, the United States, European Union and Japan teamed up to bring a joint case to the WTO over China’s alleged export controls on rare earth metals, which they claim are hurting their own domestic manufacturers.

Over-exploitation has depleted China’s rare earth resources over the past three decades, as the country now supplies more than 90 percent of the world’s rare earth metals.

Its rare earth reserves have dropped sharply to about one-third of the world’s total, compared to 90 percent 30 years ago.