Sat, Feb 26, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Japan to spend US$1.3bn to reduce rare earth usage


The Japanese government and more than 100 companies — including Hitachi Metals Ltd and Toyota Motor Corp — plan to spend ¥110 billion (US$1.3 billion) on facilities to reduce the nation’s reliance on rare earth imports.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will put ¥33.1 billion toward the cost of 160 projects for 110 companies, with the balance paid by the companies, the ministry said in a statement yesterday.

Japan, the world’s largest rare-earth importer, is seeking to cut rare-earth use by one-third, or 10,000 tonnes a year, to reduce its reliance on Chinese supplies, the ministry said.

The nation is also stepping up efforts to invest in overseas mines after China’s export restrictions increased tension between the two nations last year.

China controls more than 95 percent of the world’s supply of rare earths, a group of 17 chemically similar elements used in hybrid cars, iPods and weapons.

The package “is based on the idea that the government will give support to companies making efforts to secure rare-earth supplies,” Trade Minister Banri Kaieda told reporters in Tokyo.

Toyota, the world’s largest seller of hybrid autos, is developing an alternative motor for future models and electric cars that doesn’t need rare-earth minerals. Intermetallics Co, Asahi Glass Co, Nissan Motor Co, Panasonic Corp and Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co are among other companies receiving the subsidies, the statement said.

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