China rare earths extend surge

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    Loomi ng inspections and concerns over Myanmar supplies are adding fresh momentum to a rally in prices of the rare earth minerals used in industries from turbines to telecoms that are already at their highest in nearly a decade.

    A price index published by China’s rare earths association shot up more than 40 percent from October last year to the end of January, and has climbed an additional 25 percent since, fuelled by the risks to supply.

    These are unrest in neighboring Myanmar following a Feb. 1 military coup and worries over environmental inspections planned in a key Chinese rare earths production hub.

    While analysts say there have been no disruptions yet to supply from the southeast Asian nation, there are market concerns there could be in the wake of the coup.

    Prices for ingredients of rare earth magnets, used in wind turbines and electric vehicles, have been on a tear since the fourth quarter of 2020.

    The surge was driven by booming demand and concerns that dominant producer China would seek to limit rare earths exports and tighten control of a strategic industry.

    The rally has extended into this year, with terbium oxide and dysprosium oxide, used as magnet inputs, gaining 36 percent and 58 percent each, to touch levels this month unseen since 2012, Asian Metal data shows.