China rare earth export cut may keep tech prices up
updated 04:20 pm EST, Wed December 28, 2011
by MacNN Staff
China drops rare metal exports by 27 percent
China, which is responsible for 97 percent of rare earth materials, has announced it will cut its exports to try and bring up dropping prices of the metals. The Commerce Ministry said exporters will be allowed to sell 10,546 tons of rare earth metals during the first half of 2012, which marks a 27 percent decrease from the first half of 2011. The decision, like similar ones before it, will likely upset the US, the European Union, Japan and other governments that deal with China.
Also, only 11 companies are allowed to sell to companies based outside of China, down from 26 sellers last year.
China, however, saw prices for its exports fall despite its attempts as a weak economy sent demand and prices down. The restrictions and production halts made rare earths more expensive in markets that import them and gave Chinese manufacturers a price advantage.
The Commerce Ministry defended its decision, stating that rare earth exports in the first 11 months of 2011 accounted for only 49 percent of the total annual quota.
Rare earth elements include cerium, dysprosium, and lanthanum, and are used in HDTVs, batteries for electric cars, and wind turbines, among other technology. Australia, Canada, and the US stopped mining these metals in the 1990s in favor of lower-priced Chinese exports. A rare earth find by a Japanese company in Hawaii earlier this year may ease the constraints, however.