March 7, 2011 / 9:31 AM / 9 years ago

S.Korea considers lifting rare earths stocks -sources

SEOUL, March 7 (Reuters) - South Korea, heavily dependent on resource imports, is considering lifting stocks of rare earths to 100 days of consumption by 2014 to ensure supply, government sources said on Monday.

Rare earths, some of the world’s most obscure elements, are used in some of the world’s most familiar devices including cell phones, flat-screen TVs, microwave ovens and hybrid car batteries. [ID:nN11280013]

China, which produces about 97 percent of the global supply of the minerals used in smartphones, electric car motors and high-tech industrial equipment, cut export quotas by 40 percent last year, alarming buyers and trading partners.

Last month, China announced a shake-up of its rare earths industry, vowing “reasonable” quotas on mining and exports to bring order to the small but strategic sector where its dominance has spooked foreign buyers. [ID:nTOE71F05U]

“The government is considering raising rare earth inventories, although making a final decision on the plans, including budgets, will take several months,” said a source at the finance ministry.

The Korean government has been building rare earths stocks in general storage facilities through state-run Korea Resources Corp (KORES), and inventories stand at 62 tonnes, equivalent to four days of consumption, official data showed.

A source at KORES said on Monday that it was scheduled to complete the country’s first rare earths storage facilities by August with a 100-day stockpiling capacity.

Facing a possible shortage of the rare metals, South Korea’s public and private companies have been beefing up efforts to ensure supplies.

Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS), the world’s fifth-biggest carmaker along with Kia Motors Corp (000270.KS), said last month that it was seeking to secure rare earth metals used in electric and hybrid cars. [ID:nTOE71J010] (Reporting by Cho Mee-young; Editing by Chris Lewis)

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