China could turn rare earth importer by 2014

China could turn rare earth importer by 2014

Summary: World's biggest producer of rare earth metals likely to become importer by as early as two years' time, amid rising domestic consumption, report says.

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China is likely to turn into an importer of rare earth metals, instead of being the world's biggest producer, by as early as 2014, as domestic consumption rises in its high-tech industries, according to industry watchers.

In a report Wednesday, Reuters noted that the country's appetite for the material has been growing fast. While it currently produces more than 90 percent of the world's supply, it is now consuming 65 percent of output versus 25 percent a decade ago, it said.

Mark Smith, CEO of Colorado-based miner Molycorp, said in the article that China would by 2014 or 2015, "probably be in a net import situation for certain rare earths".

"When the demand is there, that's where the supply has to go. Over 80 percent of the magnets produced in the world come from China and that is growing just tremendously every year," Smith told the newswire.

The industry appears to following the path of China's coking coal sector, where the country decided to feed the material to its own steel mills instead of shipping the material abroad, turning from being the world's biggest exporter to becoming one of the biggest importers, analysts noted.

This follows reports last week that China has begun stockpiling rare earths amid weak prices, tightening its grip on the resource used in high-tech equipment such as advanced electronics, personal devices such as iPods, and automobiles.

Its recent moves to tighten the export of the material has led to an international outcry led by the European Union, Japan and the United States. The three countries have asked the World Trade Organization to establish a dispute settlement panel to rule on U.S. claims over China's "unfair" limit on exports of rare earth materials.



Topics: Hardware, Government, China

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Loves caption contests, leisurely strolls along supermarket aisles and watching How It's Made. Ryan has covered finance, politics, tech and sports for TV, radio and print. He is also co-author of best seller "Profit from the Panic". Ryan is an editor at ZDNet's Asia/Singapore office.

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3 comments
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  • Heh

    The Mountain Pass rare earth mine in California, U.S., recently reopened. Apparently, just in time to export product to China.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • haha

      nice catch on that mine.
      Ryan Huang
  • Exports to China

    Can't see it myself. There are many projects to mine Rare Earth Metals worldwide at the moment, but these will take time and will not be able to keep up with GROWING demand for them, as they are used in manufacturing of many high tech products such as smartphones, hybrid cars etc etc. Worth noting that of the 17 elements which make up what is known as Rare Earth Metals, not all are as important (or valuable) as others, according to expert Jack Lifton. For instance dysprosium, I came across this video http://bit.ly/NmM6zc made by London Metal Group which shows all the applications of dysprosium in modern hi-tech manufacturing.
    AlfredoVoodoo