Eight major rare-earth mineral production bases in Guangdong Province signed framework agreements with Guangdong Rare Earth Industry Group on Saturday, China News Service reported, after the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced last week that China would soon start to build rare-earth reserves.
According to the provincial government's plan, the industry group will set up joint venture miners with local governments and enterprises in Shaoguan, Heyuan, Meizhou, Shanwei, Maoming, Zhaoqing, Qingyuan and Jieyang, in a bid to consolidate the management and exploitation of the rare- earth resources in the province, the report said.
"The rare-earth depletion and the consequent environmental destruction in the south is more severe than in the north, because there are many illegal miners scattered across the southern region," Chen Zhanheng, director of the Academic Department at the Chinese Society of Rare Earths, told the Global Times on Sunday.
Shaoguan police said Thursday that they uncovered a case of illegal rare-earth transportation from Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province in April, finding 154 tons of the rare metals worth 140 million yuan ($22 million) in two local warehouses.
Guangdong Rare Earth Industry Group is operated by Guangdong Rising Assets Management (GRAM), a major State-owned mining company in the province. GRAM controls all the rare-earth mining certificates in Guangdong, but many of the mines under its control have already been exploited illegally, according to Chen.
China owns 35 percent of the world's known rare-earth reserves, but supplies around 90 percent of the world's demand, said Montreal-based Center for Research on Globalization.
Guangdong is a major production area for heavy rare-earth elements, and its rare-earth industry output in 2011 reached more than 50 billion yuan, the news report said.
The EU said in June that it was facing shortages of key technological minerals, including rare earths, and attributed the shortage to trade policies of the emerging economies, including China.
Chen argued that there is no real shortage for the Western countries, as the rare-earth export quotas were not used up in 2010 and 2011.
Meanwhile, Colorado-based Molycorp is in the process of modernizing and reopening its Mountain Pass rare-earth mine in California and expects to produce 19,050 tons by the end of this year, United Press International reported Thursday.