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

By Wang Cong and Yang Kunyi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/9 19:48:40

More R&D needed to build up strategic power

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

On Sunday, the Jiangxi provincial government hosted a forum 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 the production of high-tech semiconductors, high-precision weaponry and new-energy solar cells and wind turbines. 

"We will treat the rare-earth minerals 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 local news website

Liu vowed increased efforts to crack down on illegal activities in the sector, to support technological innovation, upgrade industrial chains and boost the coordinated development of rare earths. 

Though details remain elusive, such a focus on technological innovation in the rare-earth minerals 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 the Beijing-based Anbound Consulting. 

"The previous export structure largely depended on the export of raw, unprocessed materials like cheap rare-earth minerals," Liu told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

"Given the strategic nature of rare-earth minerals, now the industry needs to be upgraded to produce and export more technology-intensive products," Liu said.

The move by Jiangxi officials comes on amid a nationwide campaign to upgrade the rare-earths industry and improve management of the export of core materials, following a high profile visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to a major rare-earths company in Jiangxi in May, during which the top leader stressed that rare-earths are 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 develop more rare-earth metal-related patents [in China], and to be able to apply those patents to production, so companies don't have to rely on foreign patents and technologies," Liu said.

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

Newspaper headline: Jiangxi to boost rare earths


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