AnalystOn Wednesday (March 13), China, which has been the world's largest producer of rare earths for many years, became the largest importer last year.
According to a report by consulting firm Adamas Intelligence, China imported 41,400 tons of rare earth oxides and oxide equivalents in 2018, a surge of 167% over the previous year, as domestic production fell due to the crackdown on illegal rare earth production. At the same time, last yearChinese rare earthExports increased by 4% from the previous year to more than 53,000 tons.
Adamas Managing Director Ryan Castilloux said imports were mainly mineral and chemical concentrates from Myanmar and the United States.
Castilloux said that in 2018 China became the net importer of at least seven major rare earths, including tantalum for magnets and tantalum for ceramics, the first time in more than 30 years.
“This is undoubtedly at least the first time since China became a major rare earth producer in 1985.”
China Merchants SecuritiesAnalyst Liu Wenping said in a report on Wednesday that imports in 2018 were about 10 times that of 2015, and pointed out that China has become the world's largest importer of rare earths.
Castilloux said that the United States, the main market for rare earths in China, transports ore rich in antimony (for refining) to China and then buys back its oxides and chemical products.
The US government proposed last year to impose punitive tariffs on rare earths imported from China, but later retracted the decision.
At the same time, Myanmar became an important source of bismuth, antimony and bismuth for Chinese magnet and alloy manufacturers last year. Castilloux's data is based on customs data and Adamas' own research.
Castilloux said that if the Chinese government banned the import of rare earths from Myanmar this year - because the Southeast Asian countries are being used to "wash white" illegally exploited rare earths, then China may temporarily revert to the net exporters of the seven major rare earths in 2019.
But he added that the increase in Chinese imports appears to be a long-term trend. In addition to the rare earth producer Lynas Corp, which operates in Malaysia and Australia, “In recent years, any other company that has achieved production has been made by selling rare earth concentrates to China.”
(Article source: Gold headline)