US remains almost entirely dependent on China rare earths
A new report BMI Research says the Chinese government will continue to ramp up rare earth metal exports in a bid to regain control of rare earth pricing policy. The country produces more than 85% of the global supply of the 17 elements.
A surge in exports from China since a ruling by the WTO deemed the country’s export quotas illegal and particularly after the lifting of exports tariffs in May, caused a further slide in prices which have been declining rapidly from peaks reached in 2011.
Among the hardest hit have been dysprosium and cerium, which saw prices fall from $65,865 a tonne and $883 a tonne, respectively in May 2015, to $37,524 a tonne and $685 a tonne by September 2016 , respectively according to BMI.
China’s policy of consolidating domestic producers and processors while encouraging exports saw the sole US producer of rare earths Molycorp fall into bankruptcy in July last year. While Australia’s Lynas has withered the storm, projects in Greenland, which has the potential to rival China’s biggest production centres, Russia, India and elsewhere have struggled to gain traction amid the low price environment.
As a result the US will continue to be beholden to China for more than 90% of its rare earth imports.