The Consequences of Mining Rare Earths and Trading Gold Futures In China – Part Two

In Part One, we covered the creation of China’s new rare earths association, designed to facilitate consolidation and more environmental oversight of rare earths miners and processors.

Now let’s turn to more life-and-death matters — gold and futures trading.

The Golden Ticket — to the Gallows

Apparently, a 30-year-old Chinese woman, named Wang Caiping, has been sentenced to death (after serving two years in prison) for losing CNY 94 million (about $14.9 million) on the gold and futures markets on behalf of investors.

Reuters, working from the original Xinhua report, noted “the intermediary court of Wenzhou, in China’s eastern Zhejiang province, ruled that Wang had committed the ‘crime of fraud of financing’ and sentenced to death for the huge sum of money involved.”

Wow, if the US had a criminal justice system the likes of China’s, heads may truly have rolled on Wall Street following the financial collapse…

Seriously, though, this kind of stuff seems to happen in China all the time. Another woman by the name of Wu Ying was also recently “sentenced to death by a local court for ‘illegally raising’ 770 million yuan in funds,” Reuters reported; China’s supreme court is reviewing the case. The harsh natures of these sentences seem to say, “If you’re a woman in China, you’d be better off not handling large sums of money.” (Some slightly heartening news: the article notes, “in China, a sentence of jail time and death usually means the punishment will be reduced to life in prison.”)

A propos of losing money, the world’s major aluminum producers are in danger of doing just that, and much of their profit margins hinge on what’s happening in — you guessed it — China.

China’s Aluminum Appetite — Satiated or Still Growing?

As the market for small rare earths smelters in China may be shrinking, reports indicate the market for aluminum smelters in western China may be expanding very soon.

The Financial Times reports that the Chinese aluminum industry is about to start “an enormous programme of expansion in the coal-rich Xinjiang province in the country’s far west,” mainly based on the region’s access to cheap coal.

Executives are promising to build 10 million metric tons of annual production capacity over the next three years, enough to meet nearly 60 percent of China’s current demand, according to the article.

But even though China’s government and government-supported sectors are bullish on such industry dynamics, the current climate of global smelter shutdowns has Rusal, Alcoa and other non-Chinese producers sounding pretty bearish. (After all, to paraphrase one executive, cheap coal can’t last forever, and infrastructure challenges await China’s aluminum producers.)

If the previous thousand words or so, spanning two posts, point to any sort of picture, it’s this: China may still be growing, but the country is still years — maybe decades — away from getting its act together in terms of developed-world advancement.

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