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Japan, India to cooperate on rare earth production

November 17, 2012

In a picture taken on September 5, 2010 a man driving a front loader shifts soil containing rare earth minerals to be loaded at a port in Lianyungang, east China's Jiangsu province, for export to Japan. China's restrictions on exports of rare earths are aimed at maximising profit, strengthening its homegrown high-tech companies and forcing other nations to help sustain global supply, experts say. China last year produced 97 percent of the global supply of rare earths -- a group of 17 elements used in high-tech products ranging from flat-screen televisions to iPods to hybrid cars - but is home to just a third of reserves. - AFP Photo

TOKYO: Japan has signed a memorandum of understanding with India to promote joint production of rare earth minerals, a move which will help reduce its reliance on China which controls most of the world's supply.

Under the memorandum signed Friday, the Japanese and Indian governments will support a joint project between Japanese trading house Toyota Tsusho Corp. and an Indian state-run company, Tokyo's energy agency said.

From next spring Japan is expected to begin annual imports of 4,100 tons of rare earths from India, which will be more than 10 per cent of demand in Asia's second-largest economy, Jiji Press news agency said.

Rare earths are used to make a wide range of high tech products, including powerful magnets, batteries, LED lights, electric cars, iPods, lasers, wind turbines and missiles.

China produces most of the world's supply of rare earths, but has clamped down on exports of them in a move Beijing says is aimed at protecting its environment and conserving supplies.

But Japan, jointly with the European Union and the United States, has claimed China is unfairly benefiting its own industries by restricting exports, while trying to diversify sources of the materials.