November 24th, 2011 | Xinhua China’s environmental watchdog tightens control over rare earth projects
The Ministry of Environmental Protection on Thursday announced a list of the first 15 rare earth metal enterprises that have passed the ministry’s environmental protection check.
The enterprises were selected from 84 companies that passed inspections by environmental watchdogs in 14 provincial divisions, said Tao Detian, the ministry’s spokesman.
China currently has more than 300 enterprises working in the rare earth metal industry.
Environmental protection departments across China will not accept environmental impact assessment reports on any new rare earth projects unless they are submitted by enterprises that are on the list, Tao said.
Without an environmental impact assessment report, no industrial projects can be legally approved in China.
In April, the ministry started a nationwide inspection of rare earth enterprises, evaluating their environmental impact, pollution control measures and efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
According to the inspection, rare earth enterprises have typically not performed well in controlling pollution and protecting local environments, Tao said.
The ministry found that several enterprises did not submit environmental impact assessment reports, while others did not properly dispose of dangerous industrial waste, he said. Mining enterprises, in particular, have caused serious damage to local ecology, Tao said.
Enterprises that have failed the inspection have been urged to change their practices, while those that have seriously violated environmental laws will have their operations suspended and be forced to pay fines, Tao said.
The inspection will be expanded to highly-polluting industries such as steel production, leathermaking, lead-acid battery manufacturing, citric acid production and ethyl alcohol production, he said.