China to boost crackdown on illegal rare earth mining – by Sonali Paul and David Stanway (Reuters U.S. – February 2, 2016)

MELBOURNE/BEIJING, Feb 2 China plans to boost its crackdown on illegal mining of rare earths by setting up a system to certify the origin of supplies of the materials, used in everything from fighter jets to mobile phones.

Illegal Chinese output and smuggling have helped drag global rare earth prices to their lowest in around six years, hitting legitimate producers hard inside and outside China, which churns out 90 percent of the world’s supply.

“There’s a reasonable level of agitation in every part of the supply chain which is saying (the industry situation) is not good,” said Amanda Lacaze, chief executive of Australia’s Lynas Corp, the only remaining rare earths miner outside China.

Lynas is just breaking even as a result of the price slump, while U.S. company Molycorp has been forced to shut its mine. Other aspiring producers’ projects have been put on ice.

Vice minister of industry and information technology Xin Guobin said at a rare earths industry meeting last week that a “product tracing system” would be set up, using special rare earth invoices and other information like export data, the Association of China Rare Earth Industry said on its website.

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