SHANGHAI, Jan 6 (SMM) - China’s rare earth mining and smelting/separation quotas stood at 168,000 mt and 162,000 mt respectively in 2021, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). Among them, the mining quotas for ion-absorbed rare earth ores (primarily middle to heavy rare earth) and rare earth minerals (light rare earth) were 19,150 mt and 148,850 mt respectively. The quotas for rare earth mining and smelting/separation in 2020 came in at 140,000 mt and 135,000 mt respectively. In 2019, the total domestic mining quota for rare earth ores (rare earth oxide or REO) recorded 127,000 mt.
Based on the data in the past three years, China’s rare earth mining and smelting/separation quotas have been on the rise on the back of expanding demand.
China's rare earth mining quotas increased 28000 mt in 2021 from 2020, all of which are for light rare earth elements. And the mining quota for middle and heavy rare earth elements remained unchanged. The quotas increased 8,000 mt in 2020 from a year ago, all of which were also for light rare earth elements. China’s rare earth mining quotas have been growing more rapidly driven by the demand from the terminal sectors based on the quotas released in the past three years. And the increase came almost all from light rare earth elements.
Based on allocation of quotas in 2021, the Northern Rare Earth Group’s quota rose by 26,800 mt year-on-year, and the Southern Rare Earth Group increased by 1,200 mt, all of which were for rare earth minerals (light rare earth elements).
China is rich in light rare earth resources while the middle and heavy rare earth resources in China are relatively scarce. Therefore, out of the need to preserve middle and heavy rare earth resources as well as driven by the increase in rare earth consumption amid the rapid development of downstream industries such as new energy and wind power, China have continued to raise the supply of light rare earth elements.
Overall, domestic rare earth ore is still in short supply this year.