Premier Wen Jiabao, a geologist, directed China's rare earths policy (photo:dpa)

China fights to retain dominance of rare earths market

China’s new policy of limiting exports of rare earth elements (REEs) is causing increasing concern in the rest of the world. China is set to dominate the market for years to come, but attempts by Western countries to modify its policy via the World Trade Organisation have so far proved ineffective.

CHINA’S rise to the top of the supply chain of rare earth elements (REEs) took just eight years. In 1978 it was producing around 1,000 tonnes. By 1986, when its giant Bayan-Obo mine in Inner Mongolia began production, it was producing 11,860 tonnes. It then overtook the US as the world’s leading producer of REEs.

From 1978-1989, the average rate of incre...

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Dr. Frank Umbach
The elements mined in southern China are attractive to foreign markets because they are mostly free from the toxic element, thorium
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