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Japan moves to secure rare earths to reduce dependence on China

The date of: 2020-08-18
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source:South China Morning Post

Tokyo to help Japanese firms obtain stakes in overseas mines and increase stockpile of the minerals, vital to the technology and defence industries.

 Japan is moving to increase its stockpiles of rare earth minerals and will help domestic companies to obtain stakes in overseas mines and the ability to process raw materials into the valuable minerals required for next-generation vehicles, communications equipment and other cutting-edge technologies.

The US is the world’s largest importer of rare earths from China, with 59 per cent of its imports coming from China and analysts linking the issuance of export permits to leverage in trade negotiations.

In March, Japan announced plans to reduce its dependence on China for rare earth minerals and to diversify its supply routes. At present, China provides 58 per cent of the rare metals imported into Japan, while Beijing has also been quick to strike agreements with other governments to access their natural resources.

The Republic of Congo, for example, is the largest producer of cobalt in the world, but China has reached an agreement with the Congolese government so that 60 per cent of all the cobalt mined in the country is shipped to China to be smelted.

Japan relies on imports for 34 types of rare earth minerals, including terbium, europium, yttrium and lithium. Under the new government plan, the strategic stockpile of most of these minerals is being expanded from 60 days of domestic consumption to a supply adequate to meet demand for 180 days.

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