China’s restrictions on shipments of rare earths to this country have sent trading companies scrambling to secure other sources of the important minerals, but their efforts have not been enough to completely free Japan from its dependence on China in this area.
Toyota Tsusho Corp. announced Wednesday it will begin constructing a rare earth processing plant in India at the beginning of 2011, with plans to supply 4,000 tons of rare earth minerals annually from 2012.
Toyota Tsusho also said it will develop such minerals in Vietnam from 2013.
“We plan to supply 10,000 tons [of rare earths] annually from India and Vietnam, which is about 30 percent of Japanese demand,” said Naoto Yamagishi, general manager of the company’s Metal and Mineral Resources Department.
China is expected to lower its export ceiling in 2011, and other Japanese trading houses also have rushed to conclude contracts with operations in the United States and elsewhere.
Sojitz Corp. formed a contract with Australian mining firm Lynas Corp. to guarantee a supply of rare earths for the next 10 years–a maximum of 3,000 tons in 2011 and 9,000 tons annually from the second half of 2012.
Sumitomo Corp. has reached an agreement with Kazakhstan’s state nuclear power company to secure 3,000 tons of rare earth metals from uranium ore, starting in 2013. Mitsubishi Corp. has signed a contract with Molycorp Inc. of the United States to import 750 tons of rare earths yearly.
However, these quantities will not be enough to meet Japan’s annual demand for more than 30,000 tons of rare earths. This country depends on China for about 90 percent of its rare earth supply, and will have to continue to rely on that nation for the time being, according to observers.