China’s Jiangxi province to boost rare earths development and protection

By Wang Cong and Yang Kunyi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/9 13:38:40

Officials of East China's Jiangxi Province are stepping up efforts to better develop its precious rare-earth minerals, while boosting research and development (R&D) ability in a bid to build rare-earth excavation and purification into a pillar of China's strategic power.

On Sunday, the Jiangxi provincial government hosted a forum together with, the Chinese Academy of Engineering and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, two of China's top academic and research institutions based in Beijing, to discuss how to better protect and develop the province's rare-earth resources. 

Rare earths are indispensable in making high-tech semiconductors, high-precision weaponry and new-energy solar cells and wind turbines. 

"We will treat the rare-earth metals industry as a pillar of the country and as a strategic industry [to develop], and we will increase the intensity of technological research and development," Liu Qi, Party chief of Jiangxi, said during the forum, according to the local official news website

Specifically, Liu vowed to bid up efforts to crack down on illegal activities in the sector, supporting technological innovation, upgrading industrial chains and boosting a coordinated development of rare earths. 

Though details remain elusive, such a focus on technological innovation in the rare-earth metals sector could signal that China may raise export thresholds for rare-earth products and will control the minerals' gross export volume, according to Liu Enqiao, a senior energy analyst at Beijing-based Anbound Consulting. 

"The previous export structure largely depends on the export of raw, unprocessed materials like cheap rare-earth metals," Liu told the Global Times on Tuesday. "Given the strategic nature of rare-earth metals, now the industry needs to be upgraded to produce and export more technology-intensive products."

The move by Jiangxi officials came at the heels of a nationwide campaign to upgrade the rare-earth metals industry and improve management of the export of the core materials, following a high profile visit by President Xi Jinping to a major rare-earth company in Jiangxi in May, during which the top leader stressed rare-earth metals as important strategic resources and called for innovative development.

Liu noted that the key to upgrading the industry still lies in investment in its research and development. "The key is to self-develop more rare-earth metal-related patents, and to be able to apply those patents to production, so that companies don't have to rely on foreign patents and technologies." Liu said.

China's rare-earth metals sector has also made global headlines in recent weeks, after Chinese officials seemingly suggested that rare-earth metals exports to the US could be restricted if the US continues its ill-intentioned goal of containing China's economic and technological development.

Asked about whether rare earths will be used as a possible weapon to counter the US if Washington keeps raising tariffs on more Chinese goods, spokesperson for the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said: "If any country wants to use products made from China's precious rare earths to contain China's development, the Chinese people will not be happy with that."

The wording has been widely interpreted as a hint that China could curb exports of rare earths to the US, if US stubbornly sets to escalate the trade conflict, which has ensnares the global economy. 


blog comments powered by Disqus