Backpedaling, China Eases Proposal to Ban Exports of Some Vital Minerals

Following international outrage at reports that China planned to ban exports of rare earth minerals that are crucial for high-tech development, the Chinese government has tried to allay fears, saying they will not in fact institute a complete ban. The New York Times reports:

A bureaucratic reshuffling in Beijing this year prompted a review of Chinese policy, and regulations were drafted that would ban the export of these minerals. That incited anger and dismay from Western governments and multinational companies that depend on Chinese supplies.

Wang Caifang, deputy director general of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, tried on Thursday to allay concerns that the draft rules would become the final policy, saying the regulatory review was still under way.

“China is very responsible. We will not take arbitrary decisions. All our decisions will be consistent with scientific development,” she said in a speech at the Minor Metals and Rare Earths 2009 conference in Beijing. “China will not close its doors.”

During an interview after her speech, Ms. Wang said that China would continue to set an annual quota for the export of each mineral, adding, “I don’t think it will be zero.”

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