Rare earth metal prices have fallen sharply since mid-2011, some declining by as much as 80% as expectations of rising supplies coincided with declining demand. More recently, prices have shown signs of stabilising. Chinese restrictions on mine output and plans to stockpile materials, coupled with the increased likelihood of problems at mines outside China may mean rare earth metal prices are about to rise.
China reduced its export quota for rare earth metal’s by 27% year on year to 10.5kt for first half 2012 in an effort to stabilise prices and preserve stock. Then, in August, under scrutiny from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) China announced a 2.7% increase in the annual export quota, the first rise in 5 years and the highest quota for 3 years. Although the Chinese export quota for the whole of 2012 is just over 30k tonnes, exports are likely to only amount to around half that amount.