China's first production quota of rare earths for 2013 has been set at 46,900 metric tonnes, according to the country's Ministry of Land and Resources.
In a statement posted on its Web site on Jan 5, the ministry said that of the total figure, China, the world's strong hub of the precious elements, will release 37,950 metric tonnes of light rare earths and 8,950 metric tonnes of heavy rare earths.
Rare earths, a group of 17 elements, are metals highly essential to manufacture a wide number of high tech products ranging from flat-screen televisions to lasers and hybrid cars.
The ministry said this year's production caps is half the total quota set last year, although China did not made public that particular total production quota. In 2011, the country's rare earths production quota was set at 93,800 metric tonnes.
China, which supplies more than 95 per cent of the world's demand for the essential metals, set export limits on its rare earths to conserve resources and protect the environment. But this has since created tensions between China and its trading partners such as the U.S., Japan and the European Union, all major users of the elements, as they claimed the world's second-largest economy practices unfair commerce and currency policies.
The resource supply tightening has forced major manufacturing companies, such as Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. to recycle the metals and employ substitutes. To further cope, Japan, the world's biggest importer of rare earths, entered an agreement with India in November to source its rare earths requirements from the latter.