Mon, Apr 30, 2012 - Page 10 News List

Japan, Kazakhstan target rare earths

RARE OPPORTUNITY:The two countries are to build a plant in northern Kazakhstan to produce dysprosium, which is used to make motors for electric and hybrid vehicles

AFP and Bloomberg, TOKYO

Japan will jointly develop rare earths with Kazakhstan as part of its efforts to secure supplies of the key minerals now controlled by China, the Asahi Shimbun reported yesterday

Tokyo plans to sign an accord when Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano visits the central Asian country early next month and meets Kazakh government -officials, including Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Asahi said.

Under the plan, Japan and Kazakhstan will jointly build a plant in northern Kazakhstan to produce dysprosium, a rare earth used to make motors for electric and hybrid vehicles as well as other electronic products, the paper added.

The Japanese companies to be involved in the project include Sumitomo Corp, Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp and Shin-Etsu Chemical Co Ltd.

Japan plans to import 30 tonnes of dysprosium from Kazakhstan this year, the Asahi said, adding that it was looking to raise the shipment next year to more than 50 tonnes, accounting for 10 percent of Japan’s annual demand for the mineral.

Japan, the EU and the US claim China — which produces more than 90 percent of the world’s supply of rare earths — is unfairly benefiting its own industries by -restricting exports.

WTO SUIT

Meanwhile, Japan might sue China at the WTO over its restrictions on exports of rare-earth materials in late June, the Asahi reported on Saturday.

Officials from Japan, the US, the EU and Canada failed to reach agreement with China during talks on Wednesday and Thursday, the newspaper reported.

The US and the EU could also file against China at about the same time as Japan, it said.

Japan, the world’s biggest importer of rare earths, the US and EU filed a complaint at the WTO on March 13 against China’s limits on exports of the substances, including 17 chemically similar metallic elements used in Boeing Co helicopter blades, Nokia Oyj mobile phones, Toyota Motor Corp hybrid cars and wind turbines.

At a briefing in Beijing on Saturday, Chinese Vice -Minister of -Finance Zhu Guangyao (朱光耀) did not say whether rare earths would be discussed at this week’s -Strategic and Economic Dialogue with the US, and failed to respond to a question about the Asahi report.

China’s controls on exports of rare earths are aimed at protecting the environment and ensuring sustainable growth, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday last week, citing Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology spokesman and chief engineer Zhu Hongren (朱宏任).

Those controls include export duties and quotas.

The nation’s policies are in line with WTO rules, Zhu said, according to Xinhua.

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