[Natural Resources] Baotou, Inner Mongolia the ‘Capital of Rare Earths’

This whole week I’ve been talking about Inner Mongolia so it’s only right that I end this week with another post on this topic. The very last leg of my trip before returning to Beijing was spent in the city of Baotou (包头).  This city with a population of 1.7 million might not be that well-known but it’s a city with great significance to the global economy. Recently, there’s been much talk on how China is cutting its exports of rare earth to the industrial states. This is a problem for states like Japan and the US since many of the hi-tech manufacturing rely on China’s rare earth. According to International Business Times, “China supplies 97 percent of the world’s rare earths, used in computers and clean energy technology such as wind turbines and electric cars”.
China is saying that they are cutting the exports of rare earths to enhance their domestic green energy but from what I saw in Baotou, the Capital of Rare Earths, I think China still has a long way to go in accomplishing that. Baotou in Mongolian means ‘Place with deer'(which I saw none) but besides the central much nicer part of the city, Baotou was really polluted. This was by far the most polluted city I have seen in China. Now, when you see local Chinese residents wearing masks, you know it’s really polluted. Mines and workers. Those were the two main characters in Baotou. I don’t think the workers know or care about any of the stuff going on in the international scale but to me, I could see that they have no choice but to keep producing and selling to make a living.
Baotou has won some recognition as it has made distinct efforts to transition to an environmental friendly city. But as I saw, the outskirts of this city could still use some work. But judging from how much cleaner the central part of the city is we can conclude that there is some progress that has already been made. Here are some snapshots near Baotou’s mines.

From Baotou to the rest of the world.

Creative Commons Licence
Go Katayama – Photojournalist in Beijing by Go Katayama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at gokatayama.com.


One response

  1. Allan Copland

    Nice that someone is lifting the lid on how polluting ‘GREEN ENERGY’ really is.

    Baotau is the World’s major supplier of Neodymium, used in quantity, in so called ‘green energy’ wind turbine magnets.

    While this may be seen as ‘green’ by some, the mining and processing of Neodymium is a major source of pollution, but I suppose money comes before health in Inner Mongolia.


    February 5, 2011 at 5:23 pm

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