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BEIJING — China will raise this year’s quota on the production of rare-earth metals by 20%, the government said Thursday, as it moves to secure a supply chain that is immune from U.S. sanctions.
The country will now produce 168,000 tons of rare earths, according to a notice from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the Ministry of Natural Resources. Officials announced in February an 84,000-ton quota for the first half, and the scale will be repeated for the second half.
This marks the fourth straight year the quota has been increased, now reaching the highest level on record.
Rare earths are indispensable material in the tech industry, from electric vehicle motors to smartphones, TVs and satellites. China is the source of 60% of the world’s rare earths, which can also be used in military drones and missiles.
Japanese manufacturers of high-performance magnets and other products made with rare earths procured from China closely watch the production quota every year.
A five-year plan put out by the Chinese government raised the annual production volume of rare earths to 140,000 tons in 2020 from 100,000 tons in 2016. The latest move was made in response to the political situation in Myanmar, which exports rare earths to China. Beijing also seeks to avoid importing rare earths from Australia due to tensions with the trade partner.
China’s mounting domestic demand factored into the decision as well. Not only is the government promoting the spread of EVs, it also aims to develop the nation’s high-tech industry.
This January, the government announced a draft law designed to tighten controls on the rare-earth industry. This and the expanded output of the resource will counter the pressure posed by the U.S.
The quotas keep in place the production of heavy rare earths at 19,150 tons. The elements terbium and dysprosium improve the performance of magnets under high heat. Light rare earths received a 23% production boost to 148,850 tons. The light rare-earth cerium is used to polish liquid crystal display panels.