Parliamentary question - P-004602/2011Parliamentary question

Extraction of the rare earth metal neodymium in China and the resulting environmental damage

Question for written answer P-004602/2011
to the Commission
Rule 117
Daniel Caspary (PPE)

The chemical element neodymium (ND60), a rare earth metal, is used, for example, in the production of wind turbines for Europe. China accounts for 97% of the world’s supply of neodymium.

In 2010, China decided to raise its environmental standards. According to media reports, however, China is failing to meet its self-imposed target in the case of neodymium. The by-products of the extraction and chemical separation of neodymium (ND60) from rock are highly toxic. Moreover, when the ore is processed radioactive uranium and thorium are released and seep into the groundwater, causing long-term harm to the environment and local inhabitants.

1. Is the Commission aware of the problems caused by the use of neodymium in the production of wind turbines?

2. Are environmental requirements already imposed in connection with the import of neodymium? If so, are these requirements being met?

3. What measures does the Commission take in cases where these environmental requirements are not met?

4. Are there legal provisions in place to encourage European businesses whose products need neodymium to ensure that their suppliers comply with environmental requirements?

5. What impact does the use of neodymium have on the overall environmental footprint of wind turbines?

OJ C 314 E, 27/10/2011