China's stake in rare earths market shrinking

While China continues to be the rare earth industry leader, producing about 92% of the global output, its share in global production has decreased steadily in recent years, a study by Germany's Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) released last week (in German) shows.

According to the Hannover-base institute, in 2010 the Asian nation covered 97.6% of worldwide demand, which means China’s piece of the pie has shortened by 5.7% in the last three years.

Profits, in turn, slumped 28% to less than $1.3 billion, as prices for the elements a used by variety of industries including green technology, defence systems and consumer electronics, continued to fall.

The same study says United States produced over 4% of rare earth last year, while Russia contributed 2.3%.

China has been cracking down on the industry for years to curb illegal mining, smuggling and environmental devastation, but progress has been slow. Despite imposing export quotas, shutting down small mines and forcing industry mergers, the country's rare earth landscape remains fragmented and suffers from a lack of global competitiveness due to weak research and development.