China trade ministry increases rare earth export quota

rare earth materials ready to loaded
Image caption China said 10,680 tonnes would be added to the quota on top of 10,546 tonnes initially issued

China has allowed more companies to export rare earths, increasing the quotas set by the government, after they met environment standards.

It has increased rare earth export quotas by 10,680 tonnes, the Ministry of Commerce said Thursday.

The announcement brings the total quotas issued so far this year to 21,226 tonnes.

Rare earths are a collection of 17 elements used in products from smartphones to hybrid cars.

China, the biggest miner of rare earths, capped exports at 30,184 tonnes last year.

It said the quotas were designed to conserve resources and protect the environment.

Beijing is embroiled in trade disputes with the US, Japan and the European Union over its control of rare earths.

However, only about half of last year's quota was used, according to the ministry.

China normally allocates rare earth resources in two sets, one at the beginning of the year and one in the middle.

It has yet to issue the second round of quota allocations for 2012.

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