China's rare earth exports soar in 2010, 2011 a different story

China’s rare earths exports grew 14.5 percent in the first 11 months of last year, according to the Commerce Ministry.

It said this was despite Beijing’s decision to reduce sales of the exotic metals needed by makers of high-tech products.

It was also unable to explain why the annual government approved quota of 30,300 tonnes had been exceeded in 2010, when China’s rare earth exports were found to have totalled  
35,000 tonnes.

However, it pointed out that the value of exports soared 171 percent over 2009 due to higher prices.

Things may however change this year. Last week the country said it would cut its quota of rare earth material exports in order to cut pollution, as well as releasing new industry standards. It’s planning on dropping the quota by 35 percent in the first half of 2011 as compared to the same time last year.

More than 80 percent of exports last year went to Japan, Europe and the United States. However, it hasn’t been plain sailing. China accounts for the most rare earth mining in the world at present.

Manufacturers, which use rare earths to produce mobile phones and computer drives, were concerned when Beijing announced in 2008 it would begin to reduce annual export quotas.

In November the European Union (EU) also stepped into a row, urging China to allow more exports of rare earths, after countries across the world kicked off over China’s decision to limit the exportation.

It also had a fracas with Japan last year and decided to ban shipments to the country after a Chinese fishing boat captain was detained near disputed islands.

However, according to the Commerce Ministry, China will “continue to oversee the production of rare earths and will export rare earths globally according to trade regulations.”