12/29/2010, 00.00
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China to cut rare earths export quotas by 35 per cent

Beijing announces 35 per cent cut in rare earths exports for first half of 2011, and more for the second half. Concern is mounting because these metals are crucial for the electronics, car and other industries. It will take time for new suppliers to bring their production on stream. The US might file a complaint with the WTO.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China has raised fresh international trade concerns after slashing its export quotas of rare earths minerals by 35 per cent for the first half of next year. These minerals are widely used in electronics. The United States has voiced serious concerns about the decision and said that it might file a complaint with the World Trade Organisation on the matter.

China produces about 97 per cent of the global supply of rare earth minerals, and has been the world’s main supplier for decades, but now, it warns it might cut its exports next year by half over this year.

Current world demand for rare earths is about 110,000 tonnes a year, but demand is set to more than double to 250,000 tonnes by 2015,

Rare earth metals are also found in the United States and Australia but in the past, production costs were too high to compete with China’s exports.

China now wants to limit exports to avoid depleting its own domestic supplies. It began this summer, when it slashed its exports by 40 per cent, causing problems for US-based Apple and Japan’s Sony. For these and other companies, replacing Chinese sources will take some time.

Following Beijing’s announcement, shares of Lynas Corporation, which owns the world's richest known non-Chinese deposit of rare earths, jumped over 10 per cent; however, it will take a year before it can start exporting from its Australian mines.

Rare earths are used in flat TVs, PCs and in Sony’s PlayStation 3 videogame console. Given the situation, the Japanese company will look for ways to cut its use of rare earths, including developing alternative materials, Sony spokeswoman Ayano Iguchi said.

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