|September 22, 2012|
|By Frik Els|
Inner Mongolia, a semi-autonomous region in the north of China, has shut down nearly 900 coal mines and 2,000 other mines as part of a 7-year effort to better manage resources, protect the environment and curb illegal resource extraction.
The traditional coal mining region where output reached close to a billion tonnes last year has reduced the number of coal mines to roughly 500 from more than 1,300 in 2005 reports China Daily.
All coal mines with an annual capacity of less than 300,000 tonnes have been ordered to shut down, according to the regional department of land and resources.
Inner Mongolia is also an important centre for the country's rare earths industry. China – responsible for more than 90% of the global supply of the 17 elements used in a variety of industries including green technology, defence systems and consumer electronics – a few years ago embarked on a crack-down on illegal rare earth mines and consolidation of the industry under a few large producers.
A recent report by state news agency Xinhua painted a particularly grim picture of China's rare earth industry which belies the notion, held by many in the West, that China's crackdown has more to do with managing supply and extracting lofty profits than it is about cleaning up a notoriously dirty business.
Despite the country's best efforts to more tightly control the industry the value of many rare earths have fallen dramatically with many more abundant light REEs including lanthanum and cerium falling more than 80% from the record highs set last year.