Bloomberg News

Rare Earth Prices Double on China, Industrial Minerals Says

June 16, 2011

June 17 (Bloomberg) -- Prices of some rare earths, used in hybrid cars and laptops, have more than doubled in the past two weeks as China seeks to tighten control of mining, production and exports, Industrial Minerals said.

Dysprosium oxide, used in magnets, lasers and nuclear reactors, has risen to about $1,470 a kilogram from about $700- $740 at the start of the month, Industrial Minerals said in an e-mailed statement.

“Prices of heavy rare earths have surged since the start of the month as the Chinese government announced further plans to centralize control over the country’s mining assets,” the London-based website’s editor, Mark Watts, said yesterday in the statement.

China, supplier of 95 percent of global rare earths, has been curbing domestic output growth and exports of the metals, sending prices soaring and souring ties with major users including the U.S. and Japan. Beijing wants to set aside some deposits, with mining not allowed without central government approval, the Ministry of Land and Resources said yesterday.

The nation will raise standards for exporters and won’t approve new project expansions in an effort to curb overcapacity, illegal mining and sales, the government said last month. It would raise resource taxes on mined rare earths by a “big margin” to increase costs and boost prices, the State Council said.

The land ministry in February prohibited non-government entities from exploring or mining for rare earths in an area covering 11 mining zones near the southern city of Ganzhou in Jiangxi province. Such restrictions may apply to other mining areas, and the ministry will select part of these areas as its strategic reserves, Wang Min, a deputy minister, said at a meeting in Beijing, according to the ministry’s own newspaper published on its website.

Turbines, Missiles

“Heavy rare earths, which are largely mined in the southern Chinese province of Jiangxi, have been subject to tighter environmental controls and a government crackdown on historically widespread illegal mining,” Watts said.

Europium oxide, used for its phosphorescent properties found in plasma TVs and energy-saving light bulbs, has risen to as much as $3,400 a kilogram from between $1,260-$1,300, Industrial Minerals said.

A group of 17 elements known as rare earths is used in wind turbines, hybrid cars and defense applications such as guided missiles. China’s Inner Mongolia Baotou region produces so- called light rare earths such as lanthanum, cerium and samarium. Heavy rare-earth production, concentrated in the south of China such as Ganzhou, includes the elements dysprosium, gadolinium and terbium.

A table on the website of Lynas Corp. shows the composite price of eight rare earths found at its Mt Weld project in Western Australia has surged to $203.60 a kilogram on June 13, from $92.84 on March 31 and $11.59 in 2007.

“Demand for rare-earth elements is increasing in applications that are less esoteric than say, 20 years ago,” Watts said. “China, which is the world’s main commercially developed rare-earth elements source of supply, is reducing exports and increasing its consumption.”

--With assistance from Elisabeth Behrmann in Sydney. Editors: Keith Gosman, Indranil Ghosh

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Scott in Perth at jscott14@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Hobbs in Sydney at ahobbs@bloomberg.net; James Poole at jpoole4@bloomberg.net


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