China triples rare earth export income

China increased income from rare earth exports in 2010, as cuts in quotas fuelled a rise in global prices.
The country slashed export quotas 40% during 2010 and increased taxes on shipments of the minerals, however the resulting perception of a global shortage drove the total value of exports to $939.7 million (€697 million) – more than three times higher than the $310.1 million generated in 2009.
Despite the cuts, figures from the China Customs Statistics (CCS) Information Center show that total exports hit almost 40,000 tons in during 2010 – higher than the quota of 30,258 tons set after a slow 2009 when demand dipped due to the global recession, Reuters reports.
The country, which supplies 97% of the world’s rare earths, is tipped to cut exports by a further 35% in 2011, however it is uncertain whether it will continue to benefit from higher prices as countries have scrambled to secure alternative supplies since the original export cuts were announced in October.
Rare earth minerals are essential components in the production of precision instruments, hybrid cars, missiles, mobile phones and communication networks.
Despite the name the minerals aren’t in short supply, however mining them is a complex and highly polluting procedure.
The cuts provoked anger among the international community, with the US last month threatening to take the matter to the World Trade Organisation, Reuters said.