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China Cuts First-Batch Rare Earth Export Quota for Second Year

China, the world’s largest rare-earths supplier, cut its so-called first-batch export quota for next year as prices slumped.

China Minmetals Corp., Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. and other producers will be allowed to export 15,110 metric tons in the first round for next year, the Ministry of Commerce said today on its website. The 2013 first-lot quota was 15,501 tons and the limit in 2012 was 21,226 tons. The country typically releases two batches every year, and set the second export limit for 2013 at 15,500 tons in July, bringing the total limit for the year to 31,001 tons, a four-year high.

China’s export restrictions on rare earths, a group of 17 chemically similar elements used in helicopter blades, wind turbines and hybrid vehicles, have soured relations with the world’s major users, including the U.S. and Japan. The World Trade Organization issued a preliminary report against China that challenged the nation’s policies to limit exports of rare-earths, the Shanghai Securities News reported Oct. 29.

“The reduction this time is small, but it all centered around the heavy varieties which are rare and unique to China,” said Peng Bo, an analyst at Huachuang Securities Co. in Shenzhen.

The first batch for next year will include 13,314 tons of light rare earths and 1,796 tons of the heavy varieties, the commerce ministry said.

The price of dysprosium oxide, a heavy type, has fallen 27 percent this year in Shanghai, according to the Shanghai Steelhome Information Technology Co.

Praseodymium-neodymium oxide, a light product, has gained 12 percent this year in Shanghai, according to the researcher.

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