China sees rare earths exports rise in H1 2014

By Antonio Torrisi
Published: Tuesday, 29 July 2014

By posting a 60.4% increase in rare earths exports during H1 2014, China shows its solid leadership as leading producer, with Japan and the US remaining the biggest importers. As exports are closely reaching the quotas imposed by the country, pressure might increases on junior producers and rare earths prices.

China’s rare earths shipments have grown steadily since the start of 2014, with a 60.4% increase year-on-year (y-o-y), between January and the end of May, China Customs Statistics Information Center (CCSIC) reported in July.

The figures from CCSIC indicate rising demand for rare earths in the first five months of 2014.

Exports of rare earths ore, metals and compounds between January and the end of May totalled 12,505 tonnes, compared with 7,796 tonnes shipped in the same period 2013.

The figures correspond to about 80.7% of the country’s export quotas for H1 2014, set at 15,500 tonnes. China’s rare earths exports in May 2014 amounted to 2,391 tonnes, up by 41.9% y-o-y.

However, while light rare earths (LREE) exports from Jiangxi, China, amounted to 1,388 tonnes, a 72.9% growth y-o-y, the region saw heavy rare earths (HREE) exports decrease by 35.6% y-o-y, to 65.7 tonnes, in the first five months of 2014.

Total exports of rare earths processed products in the first five months of 2014 amounted to 24,233 tonnes.

Exports of lanthanum oxide (La2O3) amounted to about 4,090 tonnes, followed by 1,592 tonnes cerium carbonate (Ce2(CO3)3), 527 tonnes cerium oxide (Ce2O3), 104 tonnes neodymium oxide (Nd2O3), 289 tonnes yttrium oxide (Y2O3), 1.9 tonnes dysprosium oxide (Dy2O3), 567 kg europium oxide (Eu2O3) and 4.7 tonnes terbium oxide (Tb4O7)

During the same period, the total export value of rare earths ore, metals and compounds saw a slight 0.4% increase y-o-y, reaching $177m, according to CCSIC.

The average export price of rare earths ore, metals and compounds in the first five months of this year was in the range of $11.7-16.3/tonne, while the average price of rare earths processed products was $33.4-36.5/tonne.

Japan and US still main importers

According to the CCSIC, Japan’s rare earths imports from China in the first five months of this year amounted to 4,660 tonnes, up 99.2% compared with the same period in 2013, including 442 tonnes La2O3 and 1,064 tonnes Ce2(CO3)3 in the first four months.

During the same period, the US imported 4,570 tonnes rare earths from China, a 57.2% increase y-o-y, of which 2,370 tonnes La2O3 and 268 tonnes Ce2(CO3)3.

Together, Japan and the US accounted for approximately 73.8% of China’s total exports volumes in the first five months of 2014.

During the same period, Germany’s rare earths imports from China rose 757.45% y-o-y, reaching 586 tonnes and imports from the Netherlands reached 442 tonnes, up 537% y-o-y.

China is planning a series of new measures for the second half of this year to regulate the rare earths industry and tackle smuggling and environmental pollution, which could cut domestic mine output, however.

Rare earths news review

China to subsidise rare earths technology upgrades

China’s government will offer subsidies to local governments and rare earths producers, which commit to improve efficiency and environmental management, the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) have announced.

The state agency will support companies that reach a production capacity of Chinese renminbi (Rmb) 1,000/tonne ($161/tonne*) of rare earths mining and dressing, Rmb 1,500/tonne ($241/tonne) of purified rare earths and Rmb 500/tonne ($80/tonne) of metal smelting.

The government will also support advanced technology programmes in the rare earths industry by subsidising 40% of the costs of the companies which upgrade their technology in mining and processing.

Eastern Field International joins Chinese consortium

A large Chinese manufacturing consortium has signed a five-year contract with Guangzhou-based Eastern Field International Ltd, a rare earths exploration company.

The company has also developed expertise in rare earths metal separation and production of rare earth-based magnetic materials, ceramic and catalysts and it has established a programme for waste treatment and rare earths recycling.

This agreement follows Beijing’s policy to strengthen the domestic rare earths industry through the formation of large groups of mineral producers and manufacturers.

Indonesia plans to produce rare earths

In Indonesia, the director for base industry manufacturing at the Industry Ministry, Ir Harjanto, announced the establishment of a consortium comprising research agencies, industries and universities to add value to Indonesia’s rare earths resources.

The government’s plan is to produce rare earths hydroxide products as well as oxides and metals from rare earths metal reserves in the monazite deposits in the province of Bangka Belitung, which have been estimated to amount to 7m tonnes, including elements such as uranium and thorium.

A hydroxide pilot plant project is under development with the participation of PT Timah and the National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan).

The plant will be set up in Tanjung Ular province and it will process rare earth metals present in mine tailings. PT Timah has already stockpiled up to 400kg of rare earth minerals from its tin production.

South Korea partners with Mexico on rare earths

South Korea has entered into a partnership with Mexico to help the Latin American country exploit its rare earths resources in the states of Sonora, Chihuahua, Oaxaca and Chiapas and to develop its downstream industry.

During a workshop entitled "Research and Innovation in Rare Earths Korea-Mexico" at Cuernavaca in July, the Mexican Government Committee of Science and Technology promoted the consolidation of a bilateral cooperation between the two countries for the exploration, extraction, processing and manufacturing of medium-heavy rare earth products.

Critical rare earths elements such as terbium, thulium, ytterbium and praseodymium have been found in the state Sonora and Sinaloa, while high concentrations of cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, praseodymium, gadolinium, terbium, europium, yttrium and samarium have been reported in Oaxaca.

The National Korean Metals and Rare Earths Materials institute has started working with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Autonomous State Morelos University (UAEM) to develop an emerging national high-tech materials industry.

*Conversions made July 2014