China will maintain its exports of rare earths in 2011

Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said on Friday that China will maintain its exports of rare earths in 2011, denying reports that China would significantly reduce its export quotas.

At a signing ceremony of cooperation agreements with France, Chen said China has shut down or suspended the operation of some rare earth mines, which failed to meet environmental protection regulations.

However, the measure aimed at preventing environmental damages due to over-exploitation and reckless mining has been politicized by some Western media, he said.

China was in talks with consumer countries and countries with rare earth reserves to find a solution to the supplies of rare earths, Chen said in response to reports that China would reduce its export quotas by up to 30 percent in 2011.

With about one-third of all proven rare earth reserves, China’s exports account for more than 90 percent of the world’s total. But some countries with rich reserves still import the non-renewable resources from China, he noted. "China hopes to find alternatives to rare earths in the future," said the minister.

Containing 17 elements, rare earths have been used in the production of flat-screen monitors, electric vehicles and lithium ion batteries, wind energy, missiles and aerospace alloys.

Last month, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao stressed the sustainable development of rare earth mining at the sixth China-EU Business Summit in Brussels.

"It is necessary to exercise management and control over the rare earths industry, but there won’t be any embargo. China is not using rare earths as a bargaining chip. We aim for the world’s sustainable development," he said.