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China scraps rare earth quota

CHINA: The Chinese government has ended quotas on rare earth metals used to make permanent magnet generators in wind turbines.

Neodymium is used in the manufacturing of permanent magnet generators
Neodymium is used in the manufacturing of permanent magnet generators

China's commerce ministry listed rare metals as requiring a permit under new guidelines for 2015. However, an unlimited amount can now be sold.

Rare earth metals such as dysprosium and neodymium are key ingredients in the huge permanent-magnet generators (PMGs) used in large direct-drive wind turbines.

China accounts for 95% of global production of rare earth metals. More than half a tonne of rare earth metals can be used in a large wind turbine.

In December, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) said China was unable to justify the quotas following a complaint by the US and Europe.

When the quotas were introduced in 2009, countries including the US and Japan took steps to increase production of rare earth metals in order to meet demand.

At the time, China said concerns over mining methods prompted it to make the move.

In 2010, the commerce ministry denied reports that it intended to cut the export quota of rare earth metals used in wind turbines by 30%.

The rare earth metal neodymium, used in wind turbines, is mostly mined in China, although there are deposits in other countries such as Australia and the US (California).

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