June 11, 2019 / 1:39 PM / a year ago

China launches survey of rare earth resources: paper

FILE PHOTO: Workers transport soil containing rare earth elements for export at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China October 31, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - China launched a survey of rare earth resources in seven regions on Monday, the China Securities Journal reported on Tuesday, amid speculation Beijing may curb exports of the materials to the United States.

The newspaper, controlled by the official Xinhua News Agency, said China’s state planner National Development and Reform Commission, industry ministry and the natural resources ministry began the survey in areas including Inner Mongolia and Jiangxi province.

Local authorities in the surveyed regions must provide specific data and cases on major issues in protecting, developing and applying the resources, according to the official newspaper.

Beijing also asked these provinces to share thoughts and suggestions on how to improve the supply security of strategic mining resources like rare earths.

The ministries could not immediately be reached for comment outside normal business hours.

The campaign, mainly directed by the country’s state planner, might lead to a reduction of rare earth output and push up prices, as Beijing is expected to crack down on illegal mining and trade of the critical elements, said the newspaper, citing an unidentified industry insider.

Chinese rare earth prices are set to climb further beyond multi-year highs hit following a flurry of state media reports that Beijing could weaponise its supply-dominance of the prized minerals in its trade war with Washington.

China accounted for 80% of rare earths, a group of 17 chemical elements used in high-technology consumer electronics and military equipment, imported by the United States from 2014 to 2017.

China is home to at least 85% of the world’s capacity to process rare earth ores into material manufacturers can use, according to research firm Adamas Intelligence.

Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk, Hallie Gu, and Vincent Lee; Editing by Mark Potter

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