BEIJING, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese official said Thursday that the country would not use rare earths as a bargaining chip.
China as the supplier of more than 90 percent of the world's rare earths, must coordinate multiple factors related to rare earths production and exports, including economic development, resource conservation and environmental protection, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology spokesman Zhu Hongren said at a press conference.
Zhu said China's rare earth reserves account for 55.7 percent of the world total.
China has taken some measures to restrict the exploitation, production and export of rare earths, to help address problems in the rare earths industry like waste and pollution, he said. "These measures are all in line with the rules of the World Trade Organization."
Rare earths, a class of 17 chemical elements, have become increasingly important in manufacturing sophisticated products, including flat-screen monitors, electric car batteries, wind turbines, missiles and aerospace alloys. However, mining the metals is very damaging to the environment.
To protect the environment and the non-renewable metals, China announced a number of measures to regulate the rare earth industry, including reduced export quotas, crackdowns on illegal mining and mineral smuggling, issuing no new mining licenses and production caps and encouraging industry consolidation.
Zhu's statements echoed other Chinese officials, who have repeatedly defended China's rare earths policies in response to complaints from global rare earths consumers.
Early this month, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said during the Sixth China-European Union Business Summit, "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 earth as a bargaining chip."