China cuts first-lot export quota for rare-earth minerals

Bloomberg News

Sat, Dec 29, 2012 - Page 14

China, the world’s biggest rare-earths supplier, cut the first-batch export quota for next year by 27 percent as overseas demand for the elements waned.

China Minmetals Corp (中國五礦資源), Aluminum Corp of China (中國鋁業) and other producers will be allowed to export 15,501 tonnes in the first round for next year, the Ministry of Commerce said yesterday on its Web site. The first-lot quota for 2012 was 21,226 tonnes.

China’s export restrictions on rare earths, a group of 17 chemically similar elements used in hybrid cars and wind turbines, have soured ties with the world’s major users, including the US and Japan.

The WTO agreed in July to probe China’s export limits and tariffs for rare earths following complaints that the curbs breached rules of global commerce.

“If overseas demand picks up next year, the government may increase its second-batch quota,” said Wei Chishan, a Shanghai-based analyst with SMM Information & Technology Co.

The first batch for next year will include 13,563 tonnes of light rare earths and 1,938 tonnes of the heavy variety, the commerce ministry said.

Shipments from China fell 3.1 percent to 13,014 tonnes in the first 11 months of this year because of substitution and declining overseas demand. Prices plunged 77 percent from their 2011 peak.

China usually issues the quotas in two batches. In August, the government allowed 9,770 tonnes for exports in the second batch for this year, taking the full-year limit to 30,996 tonnes, the highest in three years.