China's exports of rare earth ores, metals and compounds, fell 8.8% to 23,742 metric tons in the first five months of the year compared to last year, customs data supplied by Hong Kong-based Economic Information & Agency showed Tuesday.
China in recent months closed or consolidated more than 35 rare earth mines and cut export quotas sparking concerns in the US and other industrial nations about access to supplies and causing a frenzy of exploration and development activity.
Despite the falling volume, the value of exports in the January-May period surged 242.5%, or more than three times the level in the same period last year, to $1.6 billion.
In May, China exported 5,130 tons of rare earths, down 11% compared to April, which were valued at $452.3 million.
Prices of the certain rare earths used in energy saving lightbulbs, lasers, nuclear reactors, magnets for hybrid cars and plasma televisions more than doubled in the past two weeks as China, responsible for upwards of 95% of world supply, further tightens control of mining, trading and exports, research house Industrial Minerals said over the weekend.
The Asia Sentinel has a scathing report on Tuesday on China and the rest of the world's rare earth mining industry calling it a catastrophe:
While most of the attention in the world's press centered on what was regarded as a strategic decision, Chinese officials said they could no longer afford the damage to their environment.