Japan's supply chain worries ease as China quietly resumes shipping rare earth metalsChina's unofficial embargo of rare earth metals to Japan seems to have ended. Industry officials reported that for the first time in almost two months, China resumed exports of the crucial minerals to Japan.

Japan's ministry of economy, trade and industry said Friday that out of 27 companies procuring rare earths from China, 16 reported in a survey that it was easier to purchase them. Rare earths are vitally important to myriad industries as they serve as a foundation for all sorts of technologies – from automobiles, smart phones, computers and glass to missiles, sonar systems and rangefinders on tanks. China's withholding the metals wreaked havoc on the supply chains of Japanese businesses, effectively stopping the production of many crucial goods.

The stoppage created a logistical nightmare for many companies as they scrambled to try to secure them from other sources. Currently, some rare earth metals cost nearly ten times as much outside of China as inside. China is the world's leading exporter of rare earth metals and when it reduces exports of the precious commodities, supply chains are greatly affected and business costs rise. A rare earth industry executive told the New York Times that for now, "everything is flowing" smoothly as China's exports have allowed Japanese businesses to resume their normal manufacturing.

China's resumption of shipments may be short-lived, however: the country has cut its rare earth quotas by 40 percent this year and analysts estimate that only about 3,000 to 4,000 tons worth of its quota remain, potentially sparking further shipping stoppages.
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