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Prices of rare-earth metals drop in July
Global Times | July 07, 2011 23:36
By Yu Xi
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A shipment of rare earth being loaded at Lianyungang port, Jiangsu Province. Prices of some rare-earth metals were down by about 7 percent in July. Photo: CFP

Prices of some rare earth metals in China dropped for the first time this year at the beginning of July. 

Chinese domestic prices of some of the individual elements were down by up to 7.2 percent at the beginning of July from a month earlier, Australia-based mining company Lynas Corporation said on its website.  

According to Lynas, cerium oxide, used in ceramics to polish glass and stones, is being sold in China for $28.64 a kilogram from the beginning of this month, a 7.2 percent decline from early June when the price was $30.86 a kilogram. The price of lanthanum oxide, used in lithium ion batteries for hybrid cars, fell from $25.93 to $24.77 a kilogram during the same period. Neodymium oxide, which is used in permanent magnets and wind turbines, fell from $242.28 to $236.84 a kilogram.

“It is true that prices within China for some rare-earth metals have dropped this month. But a drop in some metals prices does not indicate a general decline in the whole rare-earth market,” Wang Caifeng, a former Ministry of Industry and Information Technology official, who is heading up the creation of a rare earth association in China, told the Global Times Thursday.

Wang said the rare-earth metals prices have been ramped by investors in the first half of the year and it would be good if the prices can go down to a stable standard. 

China accounts for about 90 percent of the global production of the rare earth, a group of 17 minerals used in electronics and energy industries. China’s Ministry of Commerce cut its export quota by 30 percent in 2010 compared to 2009. The ministry is expected to release its second-half export quota within days, which might affect the price. 

“If the Ministry of Commerce will cut rare-earth metals export quota this year, the prices will rise in the future,” Li Xuerong, a rare earth analyst with the CIC Industry Research Center, told the Global Times Thursday.

In February, Premier Wen Jiabao outlined a “five-year plan” for rare earth that included raising environmental standards, the closure of illegal mines and reorganization of rare-earth producers. 

After the WTO ruled on Tuesday that China broke international regulations by restricting exports of nine kinds of raw materials, the Ministry of Commerce responded that China would study and take steps forward in rare-earth export management on the basis of WTO rules and laws.

“Foreign mining companies don’t want to exploit rare earth in their own countries due to high labor cost and environmental impact. They prefer to import them from China,” Li added.

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