South Korea's Customs Service reported that imports of rare earth materials hit a two-year low last month.
Imports of rare earth materials amounted to 114 tons (t) in January, down 40.3% from December.
"Prices for rare earths imported from China, which were the world's cheapest in the past, have risen sharply, while prices for Japanese rare earths stayed at a relatively low level," an official at the customs office told official Chinese news agency Xinhua.
Imports from China plunged 70% to 47t in January, while shipments from Japan surged 200.8% to 48t. The unit price of rare earth materials imported from China dropped nearly 30% to $45 per kilogram (kg) in January, Xinhua reported. However the price was still substantially higher than the $25.25kg for the rare earth materials imported from Japan.
South Korean manufacturers use rare earth materials in hybrid vehicles, liquid crystal displays and other high-tech products. However, the customs service observed that the proportion of imports from China used in South Korean manufacturing dropped from 81.5% in December to 41% in January.
The customs service said South Korea's imports of titanium and molybdenum were down 34.1% and 26.5%, respectively, in January. However, tungsten imports soared by 153%, while magnesium imports were up 82%. Cobalt imports increased 52.7%, while manganese expanded by 43.3% during the same period.
Dorothy Kosich, Mineweb