Dec 30, 2010

China Slashes Rare Earth Exports AGAIN By 35%

"It's nice to see this concern over pollution, but cynically, I cannot help wondering if the real goal of this crackdown is to raise prices or secure favorable trade agreements."

Rare earth elements are used in iPhones, iPads, hybrid-electric cars, wind turbines, flat-panel monitors, tiny magnets in the fins of bombs, missiles, laser-guided smart bombs, and a myriad of other industrial applications.

China cut exports last summer, then totally blocked exports to Japan last September in a border dispute with Japan and now has reduced export quotas again by 35 percent.

There is growing concern about this problem at the Pentagon and by manufacturers for obvious reasons. Please consider China's rare earths export cut spurs trade concerns

China's move to slash export quotas on rare earth minerals -- vital in a slew of high-tech products -- has raised fresh international trade concerns, and Japan's Sony Corp vowed on Wednesday to reduce its reliance on the minerals.
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China, which produces about 97 percent of the global supply of rare earth minerals, cut its export quotas by 35 percent for the first half of 2011 versus a year ago, saying it wanted to preserve ample reserves. It also cautioned that it has not decided on the quotas for the second half of the year.

The little-known class of 17 related elements is used in numerous electronic devices and clean energy technology.

Sony, maker of Bravia brand flat TVs, Vaio PCs and the PlayStation 3 videogame console, will look for ways to cut its use of rare earth elements, including developing alternative materials, Iguchi said.

Prices have surged for these minerals since authorities in Beijing slashed their rare earth exports by 40 percent this summer, saying China needed them for its economic development.

Crackdown on Illegal Mines
It's not that rare earth elements are that rare, but supply of the metals is limited because of production concerns, especially pollution. Unauthorized mining operations account for as much as 50% of China's rare earth exports, leaving sulfuric-acid poisoned streams and land in the wake. Over such concerns Illegal Rare Earth Mines Face Crackdown

China's national and provincial governments [have started] to crack down on the illegal mines, to which local authorities have long turned a blind eye. The efforts coincide with a decision by Beijing to reduce legal exports as well, including an announcement by China's commerce ministry on Tuesday that export quotas for all rare earth metals will be 35 percent lower in the early months of next year than in the first half of this year.

Read more at BusinessInsider