Japan forages for rare earth in Pacific

09:13, January 04, 2011      

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Japan is to step up its search for undersea mineral reserves in the Pacific, Japan's Nikkei business daily reported Monday.

Fully-fledged surveys near Minamitorishima, an isolated island some 2,000 kilometers southeast of Tokyo, are going to be carried out for a year beginning in April 2011, Nikkei said.

It is believed that rare earth metals and minerals such as manganese, cobalt, nickel, platinum and neodymium lie beneath the seabed near the island, it said.

Such a move may set up a likely exploration race with China and South Korea, AFP said.

Nikkei also said that the Japanese government is planning to take direct control of this project. In the next fiscal year, Tokyo is going to spend part of an $84 million budget set aside for promoting undersea mineral deposit development and related activities.

Depending on China for about 90 percent of its rare earth supply, Japan's economy would be affected by China's ban on the exports, Japanese Economy Minister Banri Kai-eda told Bloomberg earlier.

One week ago, China's Ministry of Commerce set the 2011 first rare-earth export quota at 14,446 tons, 11.4 percent down on last year.

Tokyo's annual demand of rare earth tops 30,000 tons.

Japan has accelerated its searching of new suppliers around the world.

Toyota Tsusho Corp announced last month that it would start developing rare earth in India from 2011 and Vietnam from 2013, aiming to meet a combined 30 percent of Japanese annual demand for rare earths.

Sojitz Corp is also reported to have formed a contract with Australia's Lynas Corp to guarantee a supply of rare earths for the next decade.

The Asahi Shimbun reported Saturday that Japan would send a public and private sector delegation to Mongolia next month, where 30 percent of GDP comes from mining.

Source: Global Times
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