March 31, 2011 / 6:51 AM / 8 years ago

China to cap 2011 rare earth output at 93,800 tonnes

BEIJING (Reuters) - Dominant producer China will cap its total output of rare earth oxides at 93,800 tonnes this year, up 5 percent from last year, the country’s land and resources ministry said in a statement posted on its website on Thursday.

The statement also said the ministry would not approve any new prospecting or production licenses for rare earths, tungsten or antimony until June 30, 2012.

Beijing has sought to impose more discipline on its chaotic rare earths industry, but a series of policies aimed at cleaning up the sector has alarmed foreign markets.

China produces 97 percent of global rare earth supplies, giving it a stranglehold over a range of elements used in mobile phone handsets and hybrid car batteries as well as wind turbines and weapons guidance systems.

Beijing has already slashed export quotas by 35 percent for the first half of 2011, and the decision has choked off global supplies and driven prices up to record levels.

The country also plans to set up a strategic stockpile that will give it more say over global prices.

It is also cracking down on an illegal rare earth export market that amounted to as much as 10,000 tonnes of supply last year, according to some estimates.

Chinese officials have said high levels of rare earth production were not environmentally sustainable, and that China also needed to retain supplies for domestic industries.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Chris Lewis

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