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Jiangxi Copper to Accelerate Rare-Earth Development in Sichuan

Jiangxi Copper Co., China’s biggest producer of the industrial metal, plans to accelerate development of rare earths at a project in southwestern Sichuan province to meet export demand.

“Output of rare-earth oxide at the Mianning mine will eventually reach 50,000 metric tons a year,” Chairman Li Yihuang said in Beijing today, without giving a timeframe. “When the project is completed, Jiangxi Copper will be among the country’s three largest rare-earth producers.”

China controls more than 90 percent of the world’s market for rare earths, a group of 17 metals used in weapons, hybrid vehicles and laptop computers. The nation’s rare-earth industry has an output capacity of about 200,000 tons, Chen Zhanheng, a researcher at the Chinese Society of Rare Earths, wrote in a commentary in the official China Daily last year.

Jiangxi Copper also plans to acquire domestic copper assets to expand production, and is currently in talks with “some companies,” Li said, declining to give details.

“Copper demand is fairly sound,” Li told reporters after attending the opening of China’s legislature. “Prices will consolidate at current levels, which are largely in line with the company’s forecast” of 59,000 yuan ($9,353) a ton, he said.

Jiangxi Copper has slumped 19 percent in Hong Kong trading in the past year, compared with the 8.8 percent drop in the benchmark Hang Seng Index. The stock fell 4.1 percent to close at HK$20.15 today.

Copper for three-month delivery declined 0.9 percent to $8,502 a ton by 10 a.m. on the London Metal Exchange.

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