China launches new crackdown on illegal rare earth production

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China will next week launch a three-month campaign to crack down on the illegal exploration, production and distribution of rare earth elements, the country's industry ministry announced on Wednesday.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said on its website that the campaign, lasting from August 15 to November 15, would focus on the role and responsibilities of local governments.

China is responsible for more than 90 per cent of global supplies of rare earths, a group of 17 metals with a range of applications in the renewable energy, glassmaking and defence industries among others.

Beijing has tried to exert more control over the sector, where unauthorised production, environmental pollution and smuggling have been rife, but its efforts to cut output and impose strict export quotas have been criticised by foreign governments concerned about China's chokehold over supplies.