Rare earth colorants to start production

[email protected] China Post

Nontoxic colorant from rare earths is expected to be put into full production in the current year in Baotou, the biggest city in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, following a decision by the local government to upgrade the rare earths industry to value-added processes against previously mining the raw materials.

“Due to its perfect coloring and nontoxic properties the coloring agent, mainly for plastics and leathers, can replace most existing dyes in the market,” said Zhang Hongjie, inventor of the colorant and member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

There are currently two kinds of coloring agent in the Chinese market: organic compounds releasing toxic gases with high temperatures and inorganic compounds containing heavy metal elements like lead and cadmium.

The research findings were very important, because China’s plastic output is the second biggest in the world and plastic products have been criticized a great deal by Western countries for containing harmful materials, Zhang said.

The move to produce the colorant follows plans by private company Century Zhongtian (Beijing) Investment Co Ltd and the Baotou Rare Earth Research Center to form Zhongke Century Technology Co Ltd. That was in the wake of the research center successfully manufacturing the nontoxic tolerant in November.

Baotou-based Zhongke Century, which aims to be the world’s biggest rare earth colorant research center, plans to invest 1 billion yuan ($14.5 million) and build two production lines with respective annual output of 50 metric tons and 100 tons, worth a combined 10 billion yuan each year.

“The preparation work at early stage of the project is under way,” said Geng Biao, general manager of the investment company.

“Currently site selection and fundraising is taking place,” Geng added.

Estimates are that rare earths reserves in Baotou account for 83 percent of the total in China and 30 percent of world reserves.

The local government is promoting the upgrade of its rare earths industry from previously exploiting the raw materials, to developing comprehensive processing technologies with higher added value.