Japan's rare earth minerals may run out by March: govt

Oct 21, 2010

Japan's stockpile of rare earth minerals could dry up by March or April without fresh imports from China, which has stopped shipping them, a senior Japanese government official said Thursday.

Yoshikatsu Nakayama, vice-minister of the economy, trade and industry, said China was yet to normalise the Japan-bound exports of the minerals used in high-tech products, ranging from televisions to .

"With recycling, imports from sources other than China, and cooperation among (Japanese) companies, it (the existing stock) seems to last until March or April," he told Japanese reporters, according to Jiji Press.

China has not officially declared an export ban, but all of 31 Japanese companies handling had reported disruption or stopping of shipments.

China, which controls more than 95 percent of the global market, stopped shipment last month after Japan arrested a Chinese trawler captain in disputed waters.

The Chinese government has denied officially ordering an export ban.

But Chinese authorities have required additional documents and fresh administrative headaches to Chinese businesses, discouraging them from exporting to Japan, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said.

Japanese firms have asked for shipment of the products via a third country, such as South Korea, but Chinese firms have refused, fearing that authorities may find out, the Asahi said.

Only two Japanese firms have received rare earth shipments from China since late September, the Asahi said.

Since then, China has also reportedly stopped rare earth shipments to the United States in response to US investigation into alleged Chinese subsidies into its green technology sector.

China on Wednesday denied making any fresh cuts in rare earths export quotas, but insisted it reserved the right to restrict shipments.

The Chinese commerce ministry however did not specifically comment on reports that Beijing had halted shipments of the minerals to both Japanese and US firms as a retaliatory move.

The row over rare earths has led to calls in major economies to diversity away from China, fearing that Beijing will increasingly wield its economic clout for political reasons.

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User comments : 5

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Vendicar_Decarian
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 21, 2010
Round 1... China.

America is next on the hit list.
tarheelchief
not rated yet Oct 22, 2010
If you wish to struggle with China over subsidies you can begin by opening up your books on subsidies to see if they have a case against you.
How often did spin offs from defense contractors find their way into our technological companies?How many agricultural products do not have subsidies?
The answer to the OPEC style rare earth materials embargo remains the same--better substitutes from the chemistry labs in the US and Japan. If you find a suitable nanotechnology which can replace these resources,you can confidently predict a lessening of the embargo.Throw some cash into the chemistry labs around the country.
Skepticus
1 / 5 (1) Oct 22, 2010
...Mr President, please wake up and smell the incense...
Sean_W
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 22, 2010
I guess China feels it has reached a point where the health of the worrld's major economies (already in distress from self inflicted wounds) is of no consequence to them.

Russia tried to use natural gas as a political weapon against Europe. It took one cold winter with threats of cutoffs for the Europeans to start changing plans regarding pipeline projects so as to not favor Russia and begin looking for alternative suppliers.

China's actions will act like a subsidy to encourage the growth of non-Chinese rare earth production and distribution markets. Any spike in rare earth prices will not compensate China for the longer-term loss of market share.
3432682
1 / 5 (1) Oct 22, 2010
Let's stop our stupid government from blocking our own rare earth exploration and mining. As usual, big government is our biggest problem. The regulators seem to think their job is to cripple our economy.