China announces new rare earth export quotas

09:25, July 15, 2011      

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The Ministry of Commerce (MOC) on Thursday announced the second batch of rare earth export quotas for this year, totaling 15,738 tonnes.

The quotas almost doubled the corresponding second batch of rare earth export caps last year, which stood at 7,976 tonnes.

Twenty-six rare earth producers will share the quotas, according to a table posted on the MOC website.

Baotou Iron and Steel (Group) Co., Ltd. (Baogang Group), a mining giant based in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, got the largest export quota of rare earth, or 3,220 tonnes, followed by China Minmetals Corp. (China Minmetals) with a quota of 1,327 tonnes.

The MOC set the first batch of rare earth export quotas for this year at 14,446 tonnes.

China's rare earth sales currently account for more than 90 percent of the global total. However, decades of excessive exploitation have resulted in its reserves falling to about one-third of the world's total from about 85 percent in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, the country has suffered serious environmental damage due to rare earth mining.

To control the environmental damages, the Chinese government has announced various policies, including suspending the issuance of new licenses for rare earth prospecting and mining, imposing production caps and export quotas and announcing tougher environmental standards.

The measures, however, have sparked complaints from major rare earth consumers such as the United States and Japan.

WTO Article 20 allows its members to impose export restrictions for reasons such as conservation of exhaustible natural resources if such a restriction is made effective in conjunction with restrictions on domestic production or consumption.

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