Japan to Send Study Group to Mongolia to Explore Rare Earths

By Jae Hur

Oct. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Japan, the world’s biggest importer of rare earths, plans to send a study group to Mongolia this month as the nation tries to diversify its supply sources.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will send a group in mid-October to study rare-earth deposits with the nation’s government, Hiromitsu Sugawara, deputy director at the ministry’s Northeast Asia division, said today. The two countries have also agreed to expedite talks for an Economic Partnership Agreement and to develop coal and uranium projects.

China, which controls more than 95 percent of the global supply of the minerals, imposed a de facto ban on exports to Japan last month, Japanese Economy Minister Banri Kaieda said on Sept. 28, as ties between the two nations soured over the detention of a Chinese boat captain whose ship collided with two Japanese Coast Guard vessels in disputed waters.

Chen Rongkai, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Commerce, said on Sept. 28 that the nation hadn’t imposed a ban. The Asahi newspaper reported a day later, citing unidentified Japanese companies, that the ban was lifted when the Chinese government began accepting customs applications.

Japan depends on China for 90 percent of its rare-earth supply, according to data from the trade ministry. The minerals are used in radar, high-powered magnets, laptop computer hard drives, auto catalytic converters, electric-car batteries and wind turbines.

The trade ministry will form a delegation from Japan Oil, Gas & Metals National Corp., which manages and explores Japan’s strategic resources, and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science & Technology, Sugawara said by phone.

Japan’s Trade Minister Akihiro Ohata met Mongolian Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold in Tokyo yesterday, a day after Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Batbold agreed to begin an effort to locate rare-earth mines, Sugawara said.

--With assistance from Ichiro Suzuki and Yusuke Miyazawa in Tokyo. Editors: Teo Chian Wei, Jake Lloyd-Smith

To contact the reporter on this story: Jae Hur in Tokyo at jhur1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Poole at jpoole4@Bloomberg.net

Source:Bloomberg wire service
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