Japan is now looking to develop mines in Vietnam and Kazakhstan to secure these minerals which are essential to the green and defense industries.The desperation seems high amongst the Japanese as they are also looking to prospect for these minerals in the seas surrounding Japan.Besides these efforts to secure these minerals from newer sources,METI is also looking to recycling and efficiency measures.A University of Tokyo geologist has said that around 100 billon of rare earth deposits have been discoverd on the sea floor of the Pacific in international waters.Note around 100-150,000 tons of rare earth minerals are used per year which would imply that just using this deposit would keep the global rare earth demand supplied for 10,000 years.
China has recently put increased scrutiny and control over the mining,smelting and export of important minerals like tungsten and rare earth oxides.Note mining in China often takes place illegaly without any regard to environment in quest for a quick buck.Japan which is the largest importer of rare earth oxides from China gets most of its demand met through illegal mining.However China has cracked down on this practise as it regards these minerals like tungsten,iron,rare earth,antimony and molybdenum as important for national goals.China has severely curtailed the exports of rare earth exports leading to a sharp rise in rare earth prices and stocks of rare earth companies.This has sparked concern in developed countries and blocks like EU,Japan and USA which has taken the case to the WTO.
Mining Industry in India is an important economic sector which contributes significantly to the economy of India. India’s minerals range from both metallic and non-metallic types.The total working mines were 2,854 in 2007-08 with 569 mines belonged to coal and lignite, 676 mines to metallic minerals and 1,609 mines to non-metallic minerals.There were 755 mines in public sector and the remaining 2,099 mines in private sector.India is an important exporter of iron ore, titanium, manganese, bauxite, granite, and imports cobalt, mercury, graphite etc. India mineral resources of the country are surveyed by the Indian Ministry of Mines, which also regulates the manner in which these resources are used. The ministry oversees the various aspects of industrial mining in the country.Note Mining in India comes under both the ferderal and state supervision.
China has come under a lot of fire for its proectionist trade policies from mulitnational corporations like Siemens,GE,Google as well as its major trading partners.One of the bones of contention is its export restrictions on crucial minerals like zinc,lead,cadmium, gold, indium, iron ore, lime, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, phosphate, salt, tin, tungsten, vanadium and zinc.China is surprisingly the biggest producer of these minerals and has been hoarding these minerals.Note China is the biggest importer of minerals like copper,coal,iron ore etc. so its hoarding is surprising.This action by China came under the scanner when it restricted the export of rare earth minerals over a small dispute with Japan.This resulted in alarm bells ringing in Europe,USA and Japan.These countries scurried for alternative sources of these crucial REE in other places as China controlled more than 95% of the world’s supply.
Rare Earth Metals promise to be a continuing geopolitical drama for the coming few years as Chinese monopoly over these crucial raw materials continues.Japan has already been at the receiving end of a Chinese exports embargo once and has its companies scattering to secure rare earth mineral resources in varied places like India,Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Vietnam.Hitachi is looking to increase recycling of rare earth minerals while other companies too are looking to optimize and reuse these metals.USA is currently less susceptible to rare earth disruptions as its requirements are quite low and anyway it imports most of the products using rare earth in finished form.