China had recovered some 1,000 tonnes of illegally mined rare earths in two separate police crackdown operations last week as it continued to intensify and strengthen the management of the sector. At least 50 individuals were detained because of the operations.
A monument, which reads: ''Home of rare earths welcomes you'', stands in a field of wind turbines near the town of Damao in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in this October 31, 2010 file photo.
A report by China Daily on Thursday said the government of Lianping county in Guangdong province discovered two warehouses and a factory in two villages in Zhongxin town that were illegally mining and storing the precious rare earths. Four were arrested from Zhongxin town.
A second operation, this time in Heyuan city that was led by the Longchuan county, busted nine outlets. Seized were more than 100 tonnes of fully or partly processed rare earths products.
The police arrested 45 suspects and one official who was alleged to have been protecting the illegal mining activities, the China Daily reported.
Other cases of illegal rare earths mining in the cities of Shaoguan and Meizhou were earlier discovered this year.
The mines in Guangdong province are spread across a very wide area which makes it hard to monitor, Xiao Fangming, director of the Guangzhou Research Institute of Non-ferrous Metals, said in the report. He added the illegal activities continue because of the high profits it gives to the criminals, spurred by the global demand for rare earths.
Guangdong is allowed to mine only 2,000 tonnes of rare earth oxides a year, but actual mining surpassed 40,000 because of the illegal activities.
According to Xiao, the rare earth separating plants in Guangdong have a combined capacity of 15,000 tonnes annually. It would be best that the provincial government strengthens its supervision over the facilities, he added.
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