China continues to increase imports of rare earth ores from the United States amid the ongoing recovery of the country’s economy from the pandemic and its economic consequences.
According to some Chinese media reports, only in the last several months, the volume of imports grew by 70%-80% on year-on-year basis, which became the record figure for both China and the US since 1995, when the first such deliveries began.
The sharp rise was mainly due to increased demand for rare earth elements from China's automotive sector, which currently experiences a boom due to huge volume of state support.
The ever growing supplies has already led to the growth of the average import price for rare earth ores, which already exceeded US$2,000 per tonne.
Overall, during the period of January-October, imports amounted to 58,381 tonnes, which is 55 percent higher, compared to the same period of last year.
Almost all imports were purchased by the Chinese
Shenghe Resources. The company resumed production at its separation plant in Leshan at the end of October after its closure in mid-August due to flooding.
In the meantime, the only rare earth mining facility in the United States in Mountain Pass, California, was closed twice - in 2002 and 2015 - due to low profitability caused by low prices in the Chinese market. It was then acquired by an American consortium funded by the Chinese Shenghe Resources Holding. The enterprise resumed production in 2018 and supplied all of the mined ore to China for processing.
By: Eugen Gerden
Currently China accounts for about 36.7% of the world's known reserves of rare earth metals and 70.6% of the world's production of these metals.