Imports of rare earth ores and concentrates from Myanmar were banned earlier this month by Chinese authorities. Imports from Myanmar have been a significant source of rare earth raw materials to the Chinese industry since 2017.
In addition, China closed the Tengchong Yunnan/Myanmar port, which has been the main boarder crossing point for rare earth ores and concentrates, with no sign of the port reopening over the coming months.
In 2018, imports of rare earth materials from Myanmar into China were reported to contain 23kt REO, including 860t Dy oxide and 130t Tb oxide, equivalent to 40% of China’s annual production.
Since more stringent environmental controls were implemented in Southern Chinese provinces during 2016 and subsequent years, rare earth mining activities moved from China to Myanmar and other countries bordering Yunnan province.
Approximately 15,000-16,000 people migrated from Ganzhou, Jiangxi province to Myanmar during this period to exploit rare earth resources and supply material back to the Chinese market. The ban on imports into China comes after a six-month winding-down period agreed in late 2018, which required Chinese enterprises to hand back control of rare earth mining operations in Myanmar.
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