BEIJING, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare-earth (Group) Hi-tech Co., China's largest rare earths producer, has halted some of its production in an effort to steady prices amid weak market demand.
Baotou Steel began a month-long suspension of rare-earth roasting and smelting separation operations on Oct. 23, the company said in a statement filed to the Shanghai Stock Exchange on Wednesday.
"Rare-earth demand has been low and prices have been falling since the second half of the year on the back of the economic slowdown," according to the company.
The move aims to stabilize the rare-earth market and help guide stable prices for rare-earth products, it said.
Third-quarter growth in the world's second-largest economy slowed to 7.4 percent, marking a decline of seven straight quarters, as a result of economic woes both at home and abroad.
The decision came after the company's latest financial statement revealed that its net profits slid 89.6 percent from a year earlier to 120 million yuan (19.02 million U.S. dollars) in the third quarter due to declines in prices and sales.
Prices of the group of 17 metals, which are used in products ranging from smart phones to hybrid cars, have declined sharply since last year as the global downturn dragged down demand.
The price of praseodymium-neodymium oxide, primarily used to make ceramics and magnetic materials, has now slid to around 350,000 yuan (55,000 U.S. dollars) per tonne, down from 700,000 yuan per tonne last October and the highest level of 1.4 million yuan per tonne for last year.
The oversupply is to blame for price drop, insiders said.
Meanwhile, foreign countries began to resume production of rare earths after shutting mines years ago fearing that supply from China may be unstable due to tightened export polices.
Shares in Baotou Steel dropped 1.3 percent to close at 32 yuan per share in the Wednesday morning session.