China’s export volume of rare earth minerals in January 2013 – as released by the China Customs Statistics Information Center this week – totaled 1,092 metric tons, which represents a 37.6 % drop year-on-year. The average export price was USD$ 25,540.9/ton, and the total export value plunged 81.6 %, as compared to December 2012, to USD$ 27.89 million. Last month, China exported 3,252 metric tons of rare earth ore, metals and compounds, while the total export value was $91.93 million.
In January, 2013, other rare earth processed products accounted for a total 2,866 metric tons in exports, down 22.1 % year-on-year with an average export price of USD$ 58,275.65/ton. China’s rare earth exports of traditional processed products amounted to 5,112 metric tons at an average export price of USD$ 44,734.15/ton. In 2012, the rare earth processed products export volume from China was 41,548 metric tons, down 26.1 % year-on-year, according to official data.
The Customs data showed – due to declining demand from the world’s major rare earth customers – that China’s export of rare earths remains sluggish even if the export price of rare earth processed products showed a substantial rebound in January.
Despite the Chinese government announcing the 2013 first-batch exports, in the first six months of which it will allow exports of 15,499 metric tons of rare earth resources, it will pursue a policy to stabilize the stable rare earths export quota policy in the year. However, given China’s rare earth export restrictions, in fact, the country’s rare earth export volume is bound to follow a downward trend. Due to the major role played by the country’s state-owned rare earth producers, it is impossible to adopt a rare earths price-cutting policy in order to monopolize the world’s market again. The Chinese government prevents this, meaning that the amount of rare earths exported legally from China will be reduced. Moreover, as the world’s major importers of rare earths (USA, Japan, and EU), which are striving to diversify supply and reduce dependence on China’s rare earths because of national security concerns, has stimulated development of new rare earths sources in the rest of the world.
“If the government’s export quota policy were lifted now, China’s rare earth mining and exporting would be out of Control again, which would not lead to a sustainable and viable climate for the rare earth industry.” said Chen Zhanheng, deputy secretary-general for the Chinese Rare Earth Industry Association. I agree with him.
Meanwhile, after a four month suspension of rare earth roasting and smelting operations, on February 23, 2013, China’s leading rare earth producer, Baotou Steel Rare Earths resumed producing and supplying in the domestic market even if the Company faces new challenges due to lower rare earth exports in January.