China cracks down on illegal rare earth mines in Guangdong province

Police in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong announced on Tuesday that they have shut down nine rare earth mines operating illegally in Longchuan county over the past six months.

According to a Xinhua news report, police in Heyuan municipality where Longchuan county is located arrested 45 suspects and seized more than 100 tonnes of rare earth.

Illegal exploitation of rare earths has been a on-going problem for Longchuan county of late, with police shutting over 110 illegal mines in the past several years.

The crack down on irregularities in China's rare earth industry is part of a general move by the central government to reform and consolidate the sector, with authorities recently slashing rare earth mining permits in half.

Tensions between China and other leading economies over its control of rare earths intensified earlier this week, with the US, UN and Japan successfully lobbying the World Trade Organization for a probe into China's curbs on rare earth exports.

China currently controls over 90% of the global supply of rare earth minerals, a group of 17 element which are crucial for the defense, renewable energy and communications sectors.