Japan’s Scientists Find Major Rare Earth Deposits

Japan has found a large deposit of rare earth minerals in its Pacific seabed, enough to supply its hi-tech industries for more than 200 years, a scientist said Friday.

Around 6.8 million tonnes of the valuable minerals, used in electric cars, iPods and lasers, are sitting under the seabed near a far eastern Japanese island, Tokyo University professor Yasuhiro Kato said.

He said mud samples taken from an area near Minamitorishima island, some 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) southeast of Tokyo, indicated deposits amounted to around 220 times the average annual amount used by industry in Japan.

The seabed contained a substantial amount of dysprosium — a rare earth mineral used in the engines for hybrid cars, he said.

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EU, U.S., Japan Seek WTO Steps on China Export Restrictions of Rare Earths

The European Union, the United States and Japan on Wednesday requested a dispute settlement panel at the World Trade Organization (WTO) after failing to resolve a battle over China’s export restrictions on rare earth minerals.

The move followed a complaint the three trade powers took to the WTO in March, the first they have launched jointly, and comes amid a series of clashes with China over economic issues, including the value of the Chinese currency.

“China’s restrictions on rare earths and other products are violating its WTO commitments and continue to significantly distort global markets to the disadvantage of our companies,” EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in a statement. “We regret that we are left with no other choice but to solve this through litigation.”

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Japan plans to jointly develop rare earth metals with Myanmar

Japan plans to jointly develop rare earth metals and other natural resources with Myanmar as it attempts to diversify its supply chain for the minerals, which are used in a slew high-tech goods, sources close to the matter said Sunday.

The move was prompted by China, which virtually has a monopoly over rare earth metals but reportedly stopped shipments to Japan last year during an escalating diplomatic spat.

Japan is informally sounding out Myanmar about sending Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin to Japan later this year to advance the plan, the sources said.

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Japan’s discovery of underwater rare earths a pipe dream

An underwater bonanza of rare earth deposits discovered by Japanese scientists poses little threat to miners already developing major rare earth projects on solid ground.

Companies such as Molycorp, Lynas and Avalon Rare Metals may rest assured that developing the offshore bounty could take decades and cost billions, making it little more than a pipe dream, analysts say.

"’Desperado’, that’s the first word that comes to mind," said Jacob Securities analyst Luisa Moreno. "It makes for some nice headlines, but I don’t think it would really be feasible to do this."

Read the rest of the story: Analysis: Underwater rare earths likely a pipe dream.


Japan to offer subsidies for rare earths

Japan said Friday it would offer around 42 billion yen ($513 million) in subsidies designed to slash the nation’s reliance on Chinese rare-earth minerals by a third.

The ministry of economy, trade and industry will channel 33.1 billion yen into 160 private sector projects, while an additional 8.9 billion yen will be disbursed to other projects later this year, ministry officials said.

The recipients of the subsidies will use them to cover part of their investment in developing technologies to reduce rare-earth use, recycle the precious metals and develop alternative resources.

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Ohata calm as China cuts rare earths

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Akihiro Ohata reacted calmly to China’s announcement Tuesday that it will cut its rare earth export quotas for the first half of 2011 by 35 percent, saying it was effectively what was expected.

A METI official briefing reporters following Beijing’s announcement said that while further analysis is needed to evaluate the latest move, the announcement shows China intends "not to sharply cut" the quotas from the previous year.

China said it will allot around 14,400 tons of rare earth minerals for export in the first half of 2011, about half of the total export quota for 2010, which stood at around 30,000 tons.

"We can’t evaluate (China’s announcement) without analyzing the content . . . but I think the quota was decided roughly in the form of what we had in mind," Ohata told reporters.

China supplies more than 90 percent of the world’s rare earth minerals.

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Australia commits to rare earths supply to Japan

Australia promised on Tuesday to be a future long-tem supplier of rare earths to Japan, after China suspended shipments of the minerals to its neighbor.

After Japan’s Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara raised the issue during strategic and trade talks in Canberra, Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd hinted rare earths would likely form part of a free trade pact being negotiated with Tokyo.

"The Australian government understands the significance of rare earths globally. Australia stands ready to be a long term, secure, reliable supplier of rare earths to the Japanese economy," Rudd told reporters in a news conference with Maehara.

For the past two months, China had suspended shipments to Japan of rare earths, crucial minerals for many high-tech products, due to a spat over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Japan is the world’s fourth biggest user of the minerals.

Maehara, on his first bilateral visit overseas, said he was making Japanese access to rare earths, and security of resource supplies generally, one of his top foreign policy priorities.

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China to hurry rare earth exports to Japan

China will speed up exports of rare earth minerals to Japan, the Japanese trade minister said Saturday, following complaints from Tokyo that shipments were stalled amid a territorial row.

Trade minister Akihiro Ohata said that Zhang Ping, chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, told him that he had "instructed (officials) to speed up inspections at customs to be more efficient".

Ohata was briefing reporters on the sidelines of the summit of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation nations in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

Zhang had told Ohata that China’s "tightening of control over the rare earth industry is aimed at the orderly development and sustainable use of rare earth resources," the Japanese trade minister said.

"But he understands that Japan has interest in the freight stuck at customs, and that the NDRC has already contacted relevant organisations," said Ohata, adding that the issue of restricted shipments will be resolved soon.

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Japan says China still blocking rare earth exports

Shipments of valuable rare earth minerals from China to Japan still appear to be on hold, Japanese officials said Thursday, urging Beijing to resume exports after a diplomatic row.

"There is no noticeable progress in this regard," Hidenobu Sobashima, deputy director general at the foreign ministry, told reporters as the G20 group of rich and emerging nations opened a two-day summit in Seoul.

"We keep requesting the Chinese side for more information and more concrete results, but as far as the statistics and the facts go, there is not much progress," Sobashima said.

Tokyo has accused China of restricting shipments of rare earths — elements used in high-tech products from iPods to cars — since a September maritime incident in disputed waters sparked a bitter diplomatic row.

China, which controls 95 per cent of the global market, has denied any embargo, but a Japanese trade ministry survey in October found that all 31 companies handling rare earths in Japan had reported disruption to shipments.

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Japan to mine rare earth in Vietnam

Vietnam has chosen Japan as a partner to mine rare earth metals and develop nuclear power in the Communist country, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Sunday.

Kan made the comments to reporters after meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Tan Dung, in Hanoi and said it was a sign of the "strategic partnership between the two countries."

Japan earlier this month announced plans to begin mining in Vietnam for rare earth metals used in the manufacture of high-tech products such as laptops, cell phones and hybrid cars, in a bid to reduce its dependence on China, which produces some 97 percent of the world’s supply.

China has blocked rare earths shipments to Japan following a diplomatic spat between the two countries over disputed islands in the East China Sea, after a collision of a Chinese fishing trawler with two Japanese patrol boats.

Read the rest of the story: Japan, Vietnam agree on rare earths, nuclear power.