Revenue rise provides rare bright spot
Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare-Earth (Group) Hi-Tech Co, China's largest rare earth miner normally abbreviated to REHT, raked in 3.2 billion yuan ($500.1 million) in revenue during the first half of the year, a 35 percent year-on-year increase, according to its latest financial report.
The domestic cost of rare metals has been plummeting since 2011 due to an oversupply caused by smuggling and black market trade.
The prices of neodymium oxide, for instance, which is generally extracted and refined from rare earths, dropped a further 6.5 percent to 293,000 yuan per metric ton during the first half.
Chen Zhanheng, deputy secretary-general of the Association of China Rare Earth Industry, said the major reason behind REHT's revenue surge was primarily its efforts at pushing downstream businesses, as well as its huge stockpiles of available material.
"On those stocks, there is no need to pay tax, which has added to its revenue," he said.
"Judging from its report, rare earth prices are very close to the company's production costs, amid an industry slowdown which is very obvious to see."
Chen said compared to rare earth mines in southern China, northern sites have remained more profitable because of different minerals contained in those mines.
REHT's report claimed uncertainties over the global economic recovery, coupled with domestic economic growth, which "still faces heavy downward pressure", have hurt demand for downstream rare earth products.
"Overcapacity is still overwhelming in China and demand from downstream consumers is still weak," Chen said.
A recent report from RnR Market Research showed that while annual production of rare earth extraction companies exceeded 300,000 tons across China, industry demand was at below half that.
In January, China dropped export quotas on rare earths which had been imposed since 2010, and in April the country lifted a ban on export tariffs on the minerals altogether.
According to Association of China Rare Earth Industry figures, the measures are likely to help boost overall exports to about 30,000 tons this year.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has revealed that it has shut down 55 illegal rare earth producers and 22 illegal mines over the past four years, and will continue to strengthen its efforts at cracking down on black market trade, while at the same time helping to restructure and consolidate the overall rare earth sector.