China has set its total output of rare earth at 93,800 tonnes this year, 4,600 tonnes more or 5.16 percent higher compared to last year's, the Ministry of Land and Resources said on Thursday.
China will not grant any new licenses for rare earths prospecting and mining before June 30 of 2012, the ministry said in a statement on its website.
China's biggest rare earths producer, Baotou Steel Rare-Earth (Group) Hi-Tech, declared middle of this week it will continue to extend its self-imposed production suspension of firing, smelting and separating of rare earths to another month, spurred by the continued dropping prices of the precious commodities in the world market.
The total output of light rare earths is set at 80,400 tonnes and that of medium and heavy rare earths at 13,400 tonnes this year, it added.
Rare earth minerals are a collection of seventeen chemical elements and is used to various technological devices, cellular phones, high performance batteries, flat screen televisions, green energy technology, and are critical to the future of hybrid and electric cars, high-tech military applications and superconductors and fiber-optic communication systems.
Reserves of rare earth minerals across world
The total reserves of rare earth in the world are estimated to be around 99 million tonnes. China and the United States control most of these reserves with individual endowments of 36 million tonnes (30 per cent of world's total) and 13 million tonnes (13 percent of world's total), respectively.
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Other countries which hold substantial reserves are Australia, India, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and Brazil. Over the years the supply patterns of rare earths have undergone fundamental changes.
According to the US Geological Survey's Mineral Commodities Summary, whereas till 1995 USA and China produced equal quantities of rare earths, today China produces approximately 97 per cent of the world's rare earth. Of the 124,000 tonnes of ore mined in the year 2009, China produced 120,000 tones.
Rare earth control by Chinese companies
China suspended shipments of the mineral to EU and US in October, media reports stated. The suspension came after there were indications that the U.S. would investigate if China was violating World Trade Organization rules by subsidizing clean energy exports and limiting clean energy imports.
China has been reducing export quotas of rare earth minerals for the past few years, citing environmental concerns. However, Wang Caifeng, who is in charge of setting up the China Rare Earth Industry Association, stated that China might slightly raise the production cap and export quota next year.
China, which mines more than 90 percent of the world's rare earth, has exported 6,000 tones, or 49.8 percent, of its total rare earth to Japan, representing 167 percent rise year on year, according to China's Ministry of Commerce.