Chinese annual rare earth exports fall to 5-year low amid the coronavirus pandemic

Jacob Knutson

China exported around 35,400 tons of rare earth minerals and metals in 2020 — a roughly 23% drop from 2019's total, according to data from China's customs authority and records maintained by Reuters.

Why it matters: It's the lowest recoded amount since 2015 for the world's leading miner, processor and exporter of the materials, which are crucial in the manufacturing of commercial electronics, renewable energy development and military equipment.

Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.

Yes, but: The decrease in exports is in part due to the coronavirus pandemic, which damaged global demand for the minerals and metals.

By the numbers: The fall also comes despite efforts from China's government to ramp up production of rare earths in the last year.

  • It raised its quota for rare earth mining over the summer by 6.1% to 140,000 tonnes — a record high for the country and its third annual quota increase in a row, according to Reuters.

The big picture: The U.S., a primary importer of Chinese rare earths, has sought to reduce its dependence on China after the country threatened to stop exporting the materials to the U.S. in 2019 in response to the trade war and the Trump administration's blacklisting of tech company Huawei.

Go deeper: Biden says he won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.