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Showa,Hitachi join other Japanese conglomerates Sumitomo,Mitsubishi in Rare Metal Hunt

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Japan has been desperately looking for Rare Earth Resources after China used its monopolistic position to embargo the supply of REE to Japan.Sojitz has signed a supply deal with new Australian REE developer Lynas while Toshiba is looking to set up a plant in India to mine Rare Metals from the monazite sands of the defunct REE extraction plant in Orissa.Sumitomo the Japanese trading giant too is rumored to be picking up a stake in US REE company Molycorp which expects to soon start its California mine which was shuttered a decade ago after China’s low prices bankrupted the REE producers all over the world

Hitachi is one of the biggest producer of hard drives and uses about 600 tons of REE per year.The company also produces Batteries for Electric Vehicles which uses large amounts of Rare Earth Metals.Hitachi is looking to increase the amount of Rare Earth Supply through new recycling technologies.Showa Denko another major REE consumer is also looking towards recycling in Vietnam to secure the supply of Rare Earth Metals.Japan’s government and its giant conglomerates have massively increased their efforts in new process and sources for Rare Earth after the Chinese shock.Note many  of the high tech products manufactured by Japanese companies would come to a complete halt in absence of these Rare Earth Metals.

Hitachi Recycles Rare Earth as China Crimps Supply

While trading houses Sojitz Corp. and Sumitomo Corp. consider investing in mines outside China, Hitachi said it expects recycling to meet 10 percent of its needs by 2013 from almost zero now.

Inside a warehouse in Matsudo City, Hitachi demonstrated the results of the one-year, $1.5 million research project partly funded by Japan’s government. Four refrigerator-sized devices use saws to open up compressors without damaging the rare earth magnets inside. A separate conveyor belt feeds disk drives into a machine about the size of a ship container. The drives come out the other end in pieces ready for rare earth harvesting.

Besides Hitachi’s project, Tokyo-based chemical maker Showa Denko KK in May opened a plant in Vietnam to begin recycling dysprosium and didymium metal used to make magnetic alloys. The company, the world’s biggest producer of some components used in hard disk drives, makes 8,000 tons of the alloys a year and plans output of 800 tons at the recycling factory.


Abhishek Shah

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