Journal of Resources and Ecology ›› 2017, Vol. 8 ›› Issue (3): 213-222.DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2017.03.001

• Articles •     Next Articles

Overview on China’s Rare Earth Industry Restructuring and Regulation Reforms

SHEN Lei1,2, WU Na1,2,*, ZHONG Shuai1, GAO Li3,4   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China;
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China;
    3. School of Economics and Management, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan 430074, China;
    4. Institute of Policy and Management, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, China
  • Received:2017-02-13 Revised:2017-04-20 Online:2017-05-20 Published:2017-05-20
  • Contact: WU Na, E-mail: wun.16b@igsnrr.ac.cn.
  • Supported by:
    National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFA0602802); National Natural Sciences Foundation of China (71633006); Project granted from National Geological Library of China (cg12016067A1)

Abstract: Rare earth elements (REEs) that are key to new technologies and green innovations are critical to life in modern societies. China continues to dominate the global REEs market despite several international trade disputes and market fluctuations. Pressured by an increasingly difficult situation, the Chinese government has been carrying out industry restructuring and has introduced regulatory reforms in recent years to promote the healthy development of the rare earth industry. This paper reviews the literature on the development of the rare earth industry and analyzes the reform policies, combining this with an analysis of relevant macroeconomic data. It discusses the current status of China's rare earth industry, the progress of industrial restructuring and the main problems the rare earth industry faces. The paper discusses the evolution of rare earth policies from that of "open production and open supply" to that of "limiting low quality development but encouraging export of high quality rare earths" and then to "integrating rare earth resources trade". Six key policies, including those for export quotas, export duties, environmental laws, resource utilization technology, industry consolidation and stockpiling, are discussed in detail. Policy suggestions based on this discussion are put forward concerning the treatment of small rare earth mines in China: firstly, robust efforts to prevent illegal mining must always be maintained; secondly, it is certain that the formation of large-scale conglomerates should be accelerated in the near future; thirdly, the management of key sections should be reinforced; fourthly, support for technological innovation and the development of the applications industry should continue; fifthly, specific rare earths laws and regulations should be greatly improved. The paper also puts forward some suggestions on revisions to improve mineral resources law: firstly, China must increase the market access threshold and suppress low-end excess production capacity; secondly, the new environmental protection verification must be developed for all rare earth enterprises; thirdly, minimum required indicators for the development and utilization of rare earths resources must be implemented in China. These recommendations can serve as a reference for efforts to promote the sustainable development of China's rare earth industry.

Key words: China, industry restructuring, regulation, small-scale mining, rare earth policy