Japan, Kazakhstan likely to join hands on mining dysprosium

Kyodo

Japan and Kazakhstan are expected to agree to develop new mines together to exploit the rare earth metal dysprosium, Japanese government sources said Sunday.

Dysprosium is indispensable for manufacturing electric vehicle motors and other products. Joint mine development in Kazakhstan would allow Japan to secure more than 10 percent of its annual dysprosium needs, the sources said.

Japan relies on China for around 90 percent of its rare earth supplies, but Beijing’s move to curb exports of the strategic elements after a maritime spat in 2010 is spurring Japan to conclude mining deals that can reduce Japan’s reliance on China.

Japan consumes around 500 to 600 tons of dysprosium a year, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Although Japan previously planned to secure 20 to 30 tons of dysprosium from Kazakhstan, the project would raise the amount to about 60 tons, they said.

Trading house Sumitomo Corp. and Toshiba Corp. have been acquiring rare earth metals from sources that include uranium ore mines in Kazakhstan, by teaming up with Kazatomprom, the state-run atomic power company.

Kazakhstan is believed to have one of the world’s largest uranium and chromium deposits, and European countries have been trying to build economic ties with Kazakhstan to exploit more of its resources.