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China: Rare Earths Exports Up in 2010

A villager looks towards a rare earth smelting plant as he takes a break from shoveling cast-off tailings of crushed mineral ore that contain rare earth metals in Xinguang Village, (File)

China says its rare earths exports grew 14.5 percent in the first 11 months of last year, despite Beijing's decision to reduce sales of the exotic metals needed to manufacture high-tech products.

The Chinese Commerce Ministry says exports of the minerals - 17 elements used to make an array of products from computers to batteries for hybrid cars - rose to 35,000 tons from January to November, exceeding the full-year quota of just over 30,000 tons.

Ministry spokesman Yao Jian did not explain the quota overrun Tuesday. But he says more than 80 percent of the exports went to Japan, Europe and the United States, and that China will continue to export rare earths globally according to trade regulations.

Listen to Ira Mellman's report on how Toyoya may be developing a new type of electric motor to power its Prius vehicle and cut its dependence on China's Rare Earth minerals.

China, which produces more than 95 percent of the world's rare earths, raised international concerns last year when it briefly blocked shipments of the minerals to Japan, after Japanese patrol boats detained a Chinese fishing boat captain near disputed islands. That move prompted the United States to call on Beijing not to use rare earths exports as a trade weapon.

Beijing denied any political motivation for the export cutbacks, saying they were spurred by environmental damage from mining.