Inner Mongolia vows to strengthen rare-earth industrial chain, speed up devt of new materials
Published: Mar 09, 2023 09:18 PM
Rare earth Photo:VCG

Rare earth Photo:VCG

An official in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region vowed to step up prospecting of rare earths and strengthen the rare-earth industrial chain, including speeding up the development of rare-earth permanent magnets, permanent magnet motors and other aspects of rare earths terminal industries.

In order to push the integration and upgrading of the rare-earth supply chain for upstream mining, processing, manufacturing, and deeper applications in Inner Mongolia, which is home to the world's largest rare-earth reserves, Gong Mingzhu, head of the regional development and reform commission, and a deputy to the 14th National People's Congress (NPC), told the Global Times on Thursday that the region planned to strengthen its rare-earth industrial chain, including speeding up the development of new rare-earth materials and their industrial applications. 

Gong said Inner Mongolia will speed up the development of rare-earth permanent magnets, prioritize permanent magnet motors and increase its production of rare-earth alloys magnets (such as rare-earth steels). It will also further expand application of rare earths terminal industries, including rare-earth polishing, an area in which China is racing against developed countries. 

He noted that the region is going to up the ante of rare-earth prospecting, including conducting a geological investigation and evaluation of 115 square kilometers to search for this critical material.

Competition surrounding rare earths, which are used to make components in a wide range of products, including smartphones, electric vehicles and precision-guided weapons, has grown fiercer in recent years. China makes up nearly 60 percent of the world's total mine production of the critical elements, controls an estimated 85 percent of global processing capacity, and manufactures nearly 90 percent of all rare-earth permanent magnets, according to media reports. 

Yan Hongwei, deputy head of the Baotou Research Institute of Rare Earth's Hangzhou branch, who is also a deputy to the 14th NPC, told the Global Times on Monday that although it has made great strides in the past decade, China's rare-earth industry still lacks sufficient research and innovation. Furthermore, the US and its allies are seeking to disconnect from the rare-earth supply chain and rival China in this field. Emerging rare-earth suppliers in Southeast Asia are keeping pace with China by upgrading their industries. 

In order to innovate China's rare-earth industry, turning the country from one with vast rare-earth resources to a country with strong rare-earth technology, Gong suggested that the Inner Mongolia regional government push for the building of a national trade center of rare earths, and build a national technological innovation center for rare-earth new materials in Baotou, China's largest raw material supplier of rare earths. The official also suggested expanding carbon peak and reducing emissions in this industry, as the mining of rare earths can have an impact on the environment. 

Gong's suggestion was echoed by Yan, who believes that a national technological innovation center for rare-earth new materials can gather talents and resources in the rare-earth mining industry from all over the world and make quick breakthroughs in strangleholds, which will help reduce costs and maintain China's leading position in the global industry. 

China is already investing a lot to upgrade and strengthen its rare earth-supply chain. In 2021, the Inner Mongolia regional government said it had spent 12.9 billion yuan ($1.9 billion), a record amount of investment for the region, in 42 new rare-earth magnet projects since October 2021, according to media reports.