BEIJING, April 23 (UPI) -- Chinese exports of rare-earths metals rose 47.3 percent to 4,316 tons in the first quarter as prices declined, official data indicated.
The General Administration of Customs said the value of the exports, however, fell 71 percent to $91.9 million, China Daily reported.
Rare earths, a collective name for 17 metals, are crucial in the manufacture of a host of items, from iPods, low-emission cars and computers to missiles. China accounts for about 95 percent of the world supply.
Chen Zhanheng, deputy secretary-general of the China Rare Earths Industry Association, said he believes the market will grow as production gets regulated and prices continue to fall.
Chen Jiazuo, an analyst from the China Nonferrous Metals Information Network, said it took two years for the industry to deteriorate from its peak, the report said. However, he said, current prices are higher than the lowest point in the past 10 years.
In the first quarter, Baotou Steel Rare-Earth (Group) Hi-Tech, China's largest rare-earth producer, reported revenue of $366 million, down 35.7 percent from a year ago, the report said. Its net profit fell 79.7 percent to $39.6 million.
China has reduced output since 2006, claiming it needs to conserve scarce resources and to protect its environment from mining damage. Unfair trade practice complaints have been lodged by the United States and the European Union at the World Trade Organization against China, saying its export restraints are causing massive distortions and harmful disruptions in supply chains across the world.