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A front loader shifting soil containing rare earth minerals in a port in Lianyungang, China, in September 2010. Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

China exported around 35,400 tons of rare earth minerals and metals in 2020 — a roughly 23% drop from 2019's total, according to data from China's customs authority and records maintained by Reuters.

Why it matters: It's the lowest recoded amount since 2015 for the world's leading miner, processor and exporter of the materials, which are crucial in the manufacturing of commercial electronics, renewable energy development and military equipment.

Yes, but: The decrease in exports is in part due to the coronavirus pandemic, which damaged global demand for the minerals and metals.

By the numbers: The fall also comes despite efforts from China's government to ramp up production of rare earths in the last year.

  • It raised its quota for rare earth mining over the summer by 6.1% to 140,000 tonnes — a record high for the country and its third annual quota increase in a row, according to Reuters.

The big picture: The U.S., a primary importer of Chinese rare earths, has sought to reduce its dependence on China after the country threatened to stop exporting the materials to the U.S. in 2019 in response to the trade war and the Trump administration's blacklisting of tech company Huawei.

Go deeper: Biden says he won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - World

WHO team visits China hospital that treated first COVID-19 patients

Members of the WHO team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

A World Health Organization team of researchers on Friday visited a hospital in Wuhan where China says some of the first coronavirus patients were treated, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday marks the first in-person day of the team's investigation into the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, almost a year since the first cases were reported.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Updated 3 hours ago - Technology

Exclusive: GLAAD finds top social media sites "categorically unsafe"

The leading social media sites — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube — are all "categorically unsafe" for LGBTQ people, according to a new study from GLAAD, the results of which were revealed Sunday on "Axios on HBO."

The big picture: GLAAD had planned to give each of the sites a grade as part of its inaugural social media index, but opted not to give individual grades this year after determining all the leading sites would receive a failing grade.

Federal agency issues emergency declaration over fuel pipeline cyberattack

Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration said it's "working with" fuel pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline to try and restart operations after a ransomware attack took it offline.

Why it matters: Friday night's cyberattack is "the most significant, successful attack on energy infrastructure" known to have occurred in the U.S., notes energy researcher Amy Myers Jaffe, per Politico. A regional emergency