AP: China’s Export Quota Cut Likely to Rile Tech Manufacturers

Published December 28, 2010| Associated Press

BEIJING — China said Tuesday it is reducing the amount of rare earths it will export next year by more than 10 percent — likely to be an unpopular move worldwide since the minerals are vital to the manufacture of high-tech products.

China accounts for 97 percent of the global production of rare earths, which are essential to devices as varied as cell phones, computer drives and hybrid cars. Countries were alarmed when Beijing blocked shipments of the minerals to Japan earlier this year amid a dispute over disputed islands.

Concerns over China’s grip on rare earths has led countries on a hunt for alternative sources. A number of companies in North America — notably Molycorp Inc. in the U.S. and Thompson Creek Metals Co. in Canada — are hurrying to open or reopen rare earth mines. Two Australian companies are also preparing to mine rare earths.

Numbers released Tuesday by China’s Commerce Ministry show export quotas of the rare minerals will be down 11 percent next year as compared to the same period this year. China usually issues a second batch of quotas during the year, and it is not known how the figures will change later in 2011.

The new numbers say China is allocating 14,446 tons of rare earths among 31 companies. China allocated 16,304 tons among 22 companies in the first batch of quotas this year.

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