Earlier today, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced the quota allocations for rare-earth exports for the first half of 2011. Unfortunately some of the earlier reports on the announcement got the numbers wrong, so I thought I'd put together a quick summary of what's going on. I've also posted a link below to a short interview that I did a few hours ago on this topic, with the BBC World Service's Newshour program.
The authorities have allocated 14,508 t of rare-earth export quotas to 32 different companies in China, for the first half of 2011. For the same period last year, the allocation was 22,282 t. This amounts to a 35% reduction in allocations when comparing the two periods - although such comparisons are misleading as they do not account for subsequent adjustments to the quota for the second half of each year.
Some news reports have stated that the reduction was 10-11%, but this is incorrect and arises from an incorrect comparison between the numbers announced today for all traders, and the allocation given to Chinese-owned companies only for H1-2010, which amounted to 16,304 t. Foreign-owned compares were allocated an additional 5,978 t for H1-2010 and so the actual total quota for H1-2010 was 22,282 t, not 16,304 t.
There are also two slightly different figures being reported on the quota for H1-2011 - this arises for the inclusion (or otherwise) of 62 t of provisional quota for one particular company, which may receive that allocation in March. Of the 14,508 t of quota for H1-2011, 10,762 t went to 22 Chinese trading companies, and 3,746 t went to 10 foreign-owned companies.
You can click the "play" button below to hear my three-minute discussion with the BBC on the subject of rare earths, the quota announcement and China's dominance of the rare-earths sector: