Western consumers of rare earths are more reliant on illegal material than they may realise, delegates at IMs 21st Industrial Minerals International Congress & Exhibition (IM21) heard in Budapest, Hungary, in March.
Rare earths exports out of China fell across the board in February, apart from for cerium, official statistics released by the Chinese customs agency showed (see table).
Material smuggled out of China to circumnavigate the export quotas is a concern in the country which is looking to limit material to the world market.
Vasili Nicoletopoulos, of Natural Resources GP, explained that smuggled rare earths account for 15% of light element supply to western consumers and up to 50% of heavy element output.
Japan, Chinas biggest customer for the critical elements, is 20% reliant on illegal exports. Beijing has acknowledged the smuggling activities that it is it trying to control.
The Chinese government used this...