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China’s rare-earth exports continue downward trend in August

China in August exported 1,642 tons of rare-earth, data from Chinese Customs showed on Monday – a slight rebound from July’s 1,620 tons, but still a sharp decrease from the same period last year, when the volume was 4,351 tons.

According to data from the authority, China’s rare-earth exports during the first eight months of the year reached their peak in March at 5,551.4 tons. But since April, exports have witnessed a downward trend, reaching the lowest point in July with a volume of 1,620 tons.

Rare earths include a group of 17 minerals commonly used in the high-tech sector, including in the development of electronics and military equipment.

In the first seven months, China exported 22,736 tons of rare-earth – at least a 20 percent decease year-on-year.

“The continued decline was mainly due to weakened overseas demand caused by a contracting global economy hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions on international shipments amid the pandemic,” Chen Zhanheng, deputy secretary-general of the Association of China Rare Earth Industry, told the Global Times on Monday.

“Normally, demand for rare-earth declines when the world’s economy shrinks, which has happened several times in the past two decades, such as when we saw low demand after the 2008 financial crisis,” Chen added.

In addition to citing the impacts of the pandemic, a number of media outlets speculated that the decreased exports from China – which usually dominates the sector globally – was also part of China’s national strategy to control its exports of rare-earths amid the intensifying industrial race.

According to media reports, China has 44 million tons in rare-earth reserves, accounting for 38 percent of the world’s total reserves. China supplies 90 percent of the rare-earth in the global market.

Washington last week proposed a bill to facilitate development of the country’s rare-earth industrial chain in a bid to eliminate its reliance on China’s. Meanwhile, officials from the EU voiced concerns about their rare-earth reliance, urging the bloc to diversify its rare-earth supply sources.

However, Chen said that, based on his observations, China hadn’t released any relevant regulations to restrict exports of rare-earth.

“If China really wanted to limit the export of rare-earth, there would have been notifications and discussions between clients in the rare-earth market. But nothing like this has taken place, pointing to the fact that the decease is mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic,” Chen said.

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