China cuts rare earth mining rights image

China, the supplier of 90 percent of the world’s rare earths, cut mining rights for the materials by about half to 65 nationwide to help the industry consolidate and create bigger producers.

A market access standard for rare-earth mining will be released soon. Qualified miners should be enterprises which have annual revenue of at least 1 billion yuan ($156.8million), the Economic Information Daily reported Monday, citing a draft of the newstandard.

The U.S., the European Union and Japan complained in March to the World Trade Organization about China’s limits on exports of rare earths, a group of 17 chemically similar elements used in wind turbines and hybrid cars, with the U.S. saying the curbs create harmful disruptions and distortions in global supply chains.

In 2011, China established 11 state-managed rare earth mining zones in Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province covering an area of 2,500 square kilometers in an area rich in heavy rare earth deposits.

Mining stocks have dropped 34 percent in the past year, according to the Bloomberg World Mining Index (BWMING), as concern over the slowing global economy curbed demand for raw materials.

Average prices of rare earths have fallen more than half from record levels in 2011 as consumers reduced purchases or sought alternative materials.