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China to continue rare earth exports under WTO rules

CHINA: China will go on exporting rare earth metals to the world market this year with export quotas managed under WTO rules, according to Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOC).

A neodymium-based permanent magnet used in wind turbines, made by Vacuumschmelze of Germany
A neodymium-based permanent magnet used in wind turbines, made by Vacuumschmelze of Germany

The MOC said it is in discussions to decide the export quotas in 2011. Rare-earth metals, such as neodymium, are used in large quantities in permanent-magnet generators.

On December 28, 2010, MOC announced China's first batch of quotas for rare earth export to 31 companies, totaling 14,446 metric tons, in 2011. It was down 11.4% compared with the first batch of export quotas, 16,304 metric tons, in 2010.

Business insiders said China might cut down the total export of rare earth metals in 2011, though the extent of decrease might be smaller than the drop in 2010.

The MOC said that in the first 11 months of 2010, China exported 35,000 metric tons rare earth metals, up 14.5% over the same period of the previous year.

The export values soared 171% and the unit prices climbed 130% year on year. The major destination markets were Japan, EU and the United States, which accounted for 86% of China's rare earth exports.

To date, some other countries, such as the United States, Australia and some central Asia countries, have joined the rank to exploit and supply rare earth metals to the world market.

An MOC spokesman said: "This will help ensure sufficient supply of rare earth metals in the world." So far, China, with about 36% of the global rare earth metals reserves, supplies 90% of rare earth metals to the world market.

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