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No big shift in rare earth plans
Date: 2010/11/3 Click: 1583
China's rare earth export quotas for 2011 will not be significantly cut from recent levels, a commerce official said yesterday, reinforcing the country's efforts to soothe foreign companies and governments worried about supply.

Vice Minister of Commerce Chen Jian made the comments at a news conference after weeks of international jitters about whether China could sharply reduce exports of the metals, which are used for many high-tech applications.

Chen's comments came after Vietnam and Japan, a big consumer of rare earths from China, agreed at an Asian regional meeting in Hanoi on Sunday to partner on mining the minerals in Vietnam.

Japan and other countries have said they are seeking to diversify access to rare earth supplies.

China has repeatedly said it is within its rights to control exports and its foreign customers should not be alarmed.

"I don't think there will be a big cut in export quotas," Chen said, when asked whether China would slash rare earth exports next year.

"China has a management system, but China has no embargoes," he said. "But that does not mean you can buy freely, there will be a quota system - the quota system is a way of management."

This year, China has slashed export quotas about 40 percent from 2009 levels, saying it needs to protect reserves from reckless exploitation. It mined about 120,000 tons of rare earths in 2008.

China holds about a third of the known, exploitable global reserves of rare earths, but it worries that its supplies will be depleted within decades at current rates of mining.

Chen repeated the government's position that its efforts to regulate exports of the metals were fair, and needed for environmental reasons.
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