The Ministry of Land and Resources of China Wednesday brought 11 rare earth mines under state control, in order to improve the protection, utilization of the country's strategic resources and drive up prices of the element in global markets.
These measures came after years of planning. All of the 11 areas for rare earth mining are located in Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province in China's southeast. The two iron areas are in Sichuan Province in China's southwest, a report in People's Daily Online said.
Under the new policy, only companies authorized by the central government can conduct surveying and exploitation in those areas.
The new policy reflects the great importance attached to strategic resources by the government with the intention of using the resources in a more efficient way, Lei Xiping, secretary-general of the Metallurgical Mines Association of China told media outlets.
China mines about 90 percent of the world's rare earth minerals - which is a collection of seventeen chemical elements and is used to various technological devices, cellular phones, high performance batteries, flat screen televisions, green energy technology, and are critical to the future of hybrid and electric cars, high-tech military applications and superconductors and fiber-optic communication systems.
World demand for rare earths in 2010 was about 127,000 tonnes, a figure expected to reach 188,000 tonnes by 2015 as clean technology usage increases.
Earlier, China's Ministry of Commerce issued the first batch of 2011 rare earth export quotas and allotted 14,446 tonnes of quotas to 31 companies, compared to the 16,304 tonnes allocated 22 companies in the first batch a year ago.
China suspended shipments of the mineral to EU and US in October, media reports stated. The suspension came after there were indications that the U.S. would investigate if China was violating World Trade Organization rules by subsidizing clean energy exports and limiting clean energy imports.
China has been reducing export quotas of rare earth minerals for the past few years, citing environmental concerns. However, Wang Caifeng, who is in charge of setting up the China Rare Earth Industry Association, stated that China might slightly raise the production cap and export quota next year.
Last week, China's rare earth exports rose 14.5 per cent in the Jan-Nov period of 2010 as prices more than doubled, with most of the shipments going to Japan, Europe and the United States.