Adamas Intelligence reports that according to data from China’s General Administration of Customs, from 1 January through 15 May of this year China imported 9,217 tonnes of mixed rare earth concentrate from neighboring Myanmar, after which trade stopped as China’s Yunnan Tengchong Customs banned imports of rare earths from the nation.
With the impending ban known in China, imports of concentrate spiked in May to 3,284 tonnes, an increase of 29% over the same month the year prior, as companies rushed product across the border while still legally permissible.
In 2018, China imported approximately 25,000 tonnes of mixed rare earth concentrate from Myanmar, making the nation an important supplier of feedstock to mid/heavy rare earth separation companies in China’s south.
Adamas estimates that last year, mine output in Myanmar was responsible for about 32% of total global dysprosium and terbium production, and approximately 13% of neodymium and praseodymium production. The absence of this feedstock in China since May is adding support for higher prices of some rare earths.
In a report on the closure of the Myanmar trade, Roskill likewise observed that:
Ultimately, the closure of the Myanmar-China border for rare earths trade is expected to disrupt the supply chain of many rare earth processors in Southern China through the remainder of 2019, with alternative sources few and far between. The short-term restart of several ion-adsorption clay mines in Southern China is considered unlikely, as many require investment to upgrade facilities to current environmental standards. As a result, tightening supply of raw materials is expected to cause some rare earth producers (including SOEs) to fall short of annual production quotas, or for significant de-stocking to occur. Prices for heavy rare earths, particularly dysprosium, are also expected to increase, given greater supply side pressure and increasing demand from magnet alloy producers.