Japan likely to import rare earth from India

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Japan and India will next week agree to jointly produce mixed rare earth, with Japan set to start importing from India in 2015 as it tries to wean itself off its reliance on China, the Nikkei business daily said on Thursday.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and Indian counterpart Narendra Modi will agree on the joint production at their summit meeting in Tokyo on Monday, the report said, without citing sources.

Indian Rare Earths, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Department of Atomic Energy, and Japanese trading house Toyota Tsusho will sign a contract on joint production as early as September, it added.

The Indian company will make mixed rare earth materials from uranium and thorium ores, which Toyota Tsusho will use to produce neodymium for electric and hybrid cars, as well as lanthanum, cerium and praseodymium, the report said.

Annual production will be 2,000-2,300 tonnes, equal to around 15 per cent of Japan's demand, Exports could start in February, it added.

China produces more than 90 per cent of the world's rare earth metals. Despite Japan's attempts to diversify supplies after China's cuts in export quotas several years ago, Japan still relies on China for the majority of rare earths for making electronics, magnets and clean technology.

China this month lost an appeal at the World Trade Organisation in a case brought by the United States, the European Union and Japan to challenge China's restrictions on exports of rare earths, and is obliged to cancel its strict export quotas to abide by the ruling.

India is hoping to win Japanese backing for a nuclear energy pact during a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and lure investment into its $85 billion market while addressing Japan's concern about doing business with a nuclear-armed country.

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