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China to establish rare earths exchange

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) May 27, 2011
China's largest rare earths producer has said it has won official approval to set up the nation's first exchange for the coveted minerals, in a move analysts said would further regulate the market.

The government of north China's Inner Mongolia region has approved the establishment of the exchange in the city of Baotou, Baotou Steel Rare Earth Hi-Tech Co. said in a statement filed with the Shanghai bourse on Thursday.

The government has ordered the rare earths producer and Inner Mongolia Hi-Tech Holding Co. Ltd. to set up a company "as soon as possible" to operate the exchange, according to the statement.

The exchange is not allowed to deal in futures trading, it said, meaning it would only be able to handle spot transactions of the minerals -- 17 elements critical to making everything from iPods to electric cars and missiles.

Sang Yongliang, a Shanghai-based analyst with Guotai Jun'an Securities, said the Baotou bourse was "aimed at strengthening China's rare earth pricing power".

"It will also make market information more transparent. Currently trades are quite dispersed and traders set prices with their downstream customers separately, which has made the market a bit chaotic," Sang told AFP.

China produces more than 95 percent of the world's rare earths. State media has reported that Baotou holds 87 percent of the country's reserves of the elements and accounts for around half of the nation's rare earths exports.

Beijing has taken a series of measures to tighten its grip over the highly sought-after minerals citing environmental concerns, leading to a surge in prices and triggering mounting complaints from foreign buyers.

The government has cut rare earths exports for the first half of 2011 by 35 percent compared to a year earlier, having slashed the quota by 72 percent for the second half of last year.

It has also set tougher environmental standards for the industry, restricted production capacity in projects that separate rare earths from crude ores, and raised taxes.

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