Wed, Jan 19, 2011 - Page 11 News List

China rare earths exports rose last year despite ban

AP, BEIJING

China’s rare earths exports grew 14.5 percent in the first 11 months of last year despite Beijing’s decision to reduce sales of the exotic metals needed by makers of high-tech products.

From January to November, China’s rare earths exports totaled 35,000 tonnes, China’s commerce ministry said yesterday without explaining how the annual government-approved quota of 30,300 tonnes had been exceeded.

It said the value of exports soared 171 percent over 2009 owing to higher prices.

More than 80 percent of exports last year went to Japan, Europe and the US, ministry spokesman Yao Jian (姚堅) said.

China accounts for most rare earths mining and manufacturers that need them to produce mobile phones, computer drives and hybrid cars were concerned when Beijing said in 2008 it would begin to reduce annual export quotas.

“China will continue to oversee the production of rare earths and will export rare earths globally according to trade regulations,” Yao said at a news briefing.

The US, Canada and Australia have rare earths, but stopped mining them in the 1990s as lower-cost Chinese supplies became available. China has about 30 percent of rare earths deposits, but accounts for about 97 percent of production.

Countries were alarmed when Beijing blocked shipments of the minerals to Japan last year after a Chinese fishing boat captain was detained near disputed islands.

Some commentators have suggested Beijing is trying to support growth of its own manufacturers of lightweight magnets and other products made of rare earths by reducing supplies available to foreign competitors.

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