Despite a stated export quota of 30,996 metric tons, China’s actual exports of rare earths in 2012 were only 16,266 tons, or 53 percent of the planned amount, according to the figures published by the China Customs Statistics Information Centre in a report issued on January 21. The report also shows that China exported 3,252 metric tons of rare earth metals, ores and compounds in December, 2012, showing a dramatic rise compared to 1,702 metric tons in November, 2012. China’s actual full-year export volume dropped 3.53 percent from last year’s 18,600 while the value of Chinese rare earth exports fell 66.1% from a year earlier to US$906 million according to the report.
Earlier this month, Baotou Steel Rare-Earth (Baotou), the country’s largest producer of rare earth minerals, said it shipped total of 4,086 metric tons of rare earth metals for a value reaching USD$ 93.91 million in 2012. Baotou maintains the biggest share of the quota and it exported a combined 4,112 tons last year. Baotou’s output of light rare earth Oxides (REO) was 55,700 tons while for Praseodymium Metal it was 6090 tons and for rare earth functional materials it was 9,141 tons, according to the company’s report. The giant has also secured a first batch of about 3,159 tons of rare earth export quotas for 2013 from China’s Ministry of Commerce. The exports of rare earth oxides and related products in 2012 are shown below:
Meanwhile, last month, China’s Ministry of Commerce set the first batch of rare-earth export quotas for 2013 at 15,499 tons (including a total of about 13,561 metric tons of light rare earths and about 1,938 metric tons of medium-heavy rare earths) and the government noted that such quotas would not fluctuate in 2013.
Therefore, I think that China’s rare earth export quotas will stabilize at about 30,000 tons this year. Despite China’s economy having regained some speed in the final quarter of 2012, however, the world’s rare earth supplies patterns are changing, as Molycorp and Lynas begin to ramping up toward full-scale production in 2013. Evidently, the light rare earth market may be oversupplied and China’s light rare earth products will have to confront a new challenge in the global rare earth market. It would appear that there is no avoiding the rise of a period of keen competition in this sector.