China and India's Rare Earth Battle Heating Up

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Continued from Part One.

Although China has the so-called monopoly, India has so far attributed rare earth reserve figures of about 3 percent, but the latest data released by the Indian government show this could be about 9 percent of global rare earth reserves.

India has been supplying rare earths on and off to the world since the early 50s, but in 2004, it had stopped doing so because it was unable to match the Chinese rates. Incidentally, India was the world’s leading rare earths producer in the 1950s, followed by the US through the 1960s and 1980s.

Now, with China’s exports of rare earths being cut down because of political reasons, India is once again trying to gain a hold in a market that it once ruled. India, by 2010, was importing over 370 tons of rare earth compounds, which is not its actual consumption figure since most REs are imported as finished or semi-finished products.

A report in the newspaper DNA, quoting unnamed sources, said there was steady progress on another 12,000-ton monazite processing plant near Vizag in the south of the country, being set up with Toyota’s help. It is expected to yield high purity rare earth oxides, including neodymium, which is used in permanent magnets.

India, though, is still unsure of the kind of price structure to fix for monazite.

Incidentally, last month, China, for the first time since 2005, had announced a 2.7 percent increase in its rare earth exports quota as compared to the previous year, thus allowing a total of 30,996 metric tons in 2012.

The China-India battle on rare earths keeps getting keener with every passing month. Earlier this year, the Indian government had announced that it would start plumbing the depths of the Indian Ocean for rare earth deposits. India has teamed up with Japan, a newfound strategic partner in the rare earth business.

Sohrab Darabshaw contributes an Indian perspective to MetalMiner.

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