China Tries to Clean Up Toxic Legacy of Its Rare Earth Riches

W.G.Ewald

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In northern China, near the Mongolian border, radioactively contaminated leaks from two decades of rare earth refining have been slowly trickling underground toward the Yellow River, a crucial water source for 150 million people.

In Jiangxi province in south-central China, the national government has seized control of rare earth mining districts from provincial officials after finding widespread illegal strip-mining of rare earth metals.

And in Guangdong province in southeastern China, regulators are struggling to repair rice fields and streams destroyed by powerful acids and other runoff from open-pit rare earth mines that are often run by violent organized crime syndicates.

Communities scattered across China face heavy environmental damage that accumulated through two decades of nearly unregulated rare earth mining and refining. While the Chinese government has begun spending billions of dollars to clean up the damage, the environmental impact is becoming an international trade issue, with a World Trade Organization panel in Geneva expected to issue a crucial draft report on Wednesday.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/23/b...up-toxic-legacy-of-its-rare-earth-riches.html
 

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