SHANGHAI, Dec 16 (SMM) – Myanmar has closed the border to China to suspend rare earth ore exports to the top rare earth processor, in view of the environmental damage and conflicts caused by Chinese miners’ unregulated operations, SMM learned.
The border will remain closed until mining operations are rectified, which grows concerns about supply of ion-type rare earth ores, feedstock for medium-to-heavy rare earth products.
This is set to boost prices of medium-to-heavy rare earth products significantly in the new year, when demand recovers from year-end cash flow pressure.
SMM assessed terbium oxide at 3,495 yuan/kg as of December 16, up 70 yuan/kg from the end of November. The price of dysprosium oxide rose 100 yuan/mt during the same period to 1,730 yuan/kg.
Myanmar’s latest move came after China in late September reopened the Tengchong Yunnan/Myanmar port, which has been the main boarder crossing point for rare earth ores and concentrates to end a four-month closure.
The previous ban on imports of rare earth ores to China through the Tengchong Yunnan/Myanmar port, starting from the middle of May after a six-month winding-down period agreed in late 2018, led to a jump in prices of medium-to-heavy rare earth products.
In June, prices of terbium oxide peaked 4,225 yuan/mt, up about 45% from lows seen at the start of the year, while prices of dysprosium oxide climbed more than 70% to a high of 2,000 yuan/kg.
China set its annual rare-earth mining quota in November, indicating an increase for light rare earths but no change to the quota for ion-type ores.