China has published a white paper confirming its position on rare earth elements following a complaint filed to the World Trade Organisation. The US, EU and Japan protested China are limiting their export of rare earth elements to protect domestic industries. China has rebuked this claim and cites mounting environmental damage by over-mining as the reason for slowing its mining programme.
The country is now being criticised for manipulating its estimation of reserves held. Previously they claimed to have 30% of the global reserves but now state it is closer to 20%. The Chinese government is fearful of the environmental impact of over mining. The country has already come under much scrutiny for its poor environmental track record so vigilance should be welcomed. However some critics fear the re-estimation and slower mining of reserves could have more to do with keeping prices up than concerns for the land they come from.
Industries rely heavily upon rare earth elements and will have to look elsewhere for resources if China is to stand by its conviction. Greenland could hold the answer, there is an estimated quarter of the elements required globally hidden beneath its ice. Alternatively countries could follow suit with South-East Asia and by ‘urban mining’ – reclaiming used materials from landfill sites.
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Technology company Sunlight Group has received €275 million ($290 million) in the form of seven-year loans from Greek banks to increase its lithium-ion and lead-acid battery production and R&D.
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