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China again tightens REE exports; Japan seeks to diversify supply base.

Worried about China’s ongoing rare earths stranglehold and further cutbacks of exports, Japan looks to diversify its rare earths supply basis. While a delegation of Japanese business leaders recently urged China to ensure a stable supply to Japan, the Japanese government is stepping up its efforts to find alternative sources for the sought-after commodity.

In the wake of China blocking rare earths shipments to Japan in the fall of 2010, Vietnam and Japan agreed to explore and develop REEs in the neighboring country.  Now, the Japanese government is turning to Burma to secure rare earths supply for its ailing high-tech industries. According to the Kyodo news agency, informal discussions are taking place while a formal deal with the Burmese government will be sought during the foreign minister’s next visit to Japan.

Against the backdrop of Tuesday’s news that China has again ordered a further tightening of its export controls on rare earth elements, Japan’s efforts should be seen as another wake-up call that the time to free ourselves from our unnecessary dependency on foreign metals and minerals – be it rare earths or other non-fuel resources we possess but have failed to develop – is now.