China rare earths producer extends output halt

China's largest rare earths producer said Tuesday it would suspend output at some plants for another month, extending a halt started in late October to try and stem falling prices.

Baotou Steel Rare-Earth will halt firing, smelting and separation of rare earths at its factories in Baotou in the northern region of Inner Mongolia for one more month, it said in a statement filed with the Shanghai bourse.

"The rare earth market recovered slightly in the two months when production ... was suspended. But there has been no fundamental turnaround," it said.

The firm, also called Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare-earth (Group) Hi-tech, on October 23 started halting production at almost all of its plants, including two in the eastern province of Jiangxi.

China produces more than 95 percent of the world's rare earths, 17 elements crucial for making a range of hi-tech products including iPads and wind turbines.

The country's control over the sought-after resources -- through production caps and export quotas -- has sparked a dispute with major trading partners.

The price of praseodymium-neodymium oxide, a rare earths compound used for ceramics and magnetic materials, has slid to around 300,000 yuan ($48,000) per tonne, less than one fourth the level at the highest point last year, the official Xinhua news agency said Tuesday.

Baotou Steel Rare-Earth implemented a similar month-long production halt in October last year, but failed to reverse the downtrend in global and domestic prices of rare earths.

The company said in October that its third-quarter net profit slumped 89.6 percent from the same period last year to 119.9 million yuan.

Its shares ended down 0.72 percent to 37.17 yuan Tuesday after the announcement.

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