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Nikkei: METI to support more R&D to cut demand for rare-earth elements; cutting demand for dysprosium in half

13 August 2012

The Nikkei reports that Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is planning R&D subsidies meant to reduce the need for imported rare-earth elements. Rare earth metals are essential for a range of products, including cell phones, wind turbines, electric motors, and missiles. While METI has already provided support to counter China’s restrictions on rare-earth exports, the ministry will expand its aid, announcing 30 more qualifying projects later this week.

A major priority is dysprosium, an ingredient in the powerful magnets found in motors for hybrid cars and energy-efficient appliances. China accounts for more than the 90% of dysprosium production. Jtekt Corp. , a machine tool maker affiliated with Toyota Motor Corp., will use the METI subsidies to design a new type of motor that does not need dysprosium magnets.

This and the other supported projects could reduce dysprosium consumption by 300 tons—half of the current annual demand, according to METI estimates. The ministry will also support efforts to ease demand for other resources, such as tungsten, a rare metal used to strengthen cutting tools.

Xinhua reported last week that China plans to establish a global authoritative pricing index for rare earth metals in an effort to enhance its pricing power over the resources. China now supplies more than 90% of the world’s demand for rare earth metals.

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