by Greg Klein | October 22, 2014
Estimates of Chinese rare earths production range upwards to 90% or more of global supply. But a crackdown on illegal mining could threaten about 40% of the country’s output, according to sources quoted by Mining Weekly on October 21. The info was divulged at a Milan conference by Industrial Minerals Company of Australia executive director Dudley Kingsnorth and in a note to clients from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence analyst Simon Moores.
“Kingsnorth cited experts within China who were not only involved in mining the elements but also affiliated with the government-led rare earths association,” Mining Weekly stated.
The publication quoted Moores asking, “With an alarming lack of investment in new global sources, where will buyers turn to if China’s black-market supply is eliminated?”
In August an official with the Chinese government’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology blamed illegal mining for plummeting rare earths prices since 2011, according to Industrial Minerals.
While the World Trade Organization has ruled against the country’s system of rare earths export quotas, China has been building a stockpile in anticipation of rising domestic demand, Bloomberg reported in August. The news agency stated China’s State Reserve Bureau bought 10,000 tonnes of rare earths in one week.