Japan's consumption of rare earths is expected to decrease

30.03.2012 – Japan's consumption of rare earths is expected to decrease

Private sector is working on alternative technologies / Recycling planted Zudem mehr / Detlef Rehn
Tokyo (gtai) – Japan is in rare earths and other metals strongly depends on the PRC. To change this, examines the economic opportunities for, to replace metals with less critical materials. New high-performance magnets and motors for electric cars are important fields of activity. Furthermore, Japan will recycle more metals. The private sector has initiated several projects. The government is considering, a nationwide recycling system for small electric- build and Electronic Equipment.

Although Japan for several years in a number of high-technology fields under great pressure from European, American, South Korean and Chinese competitors is, the country is still dominant in many future products. For example for hybrid- and electric cars and high performance batteries.
To remain internationally competitive in these areas, Japan has a strong interest, that Rare earth und andere “strategic” Metals, needed in the production of many high-tech products, available in the future in sufficient quantities. Until now, the Republic of China as the world's biggest producer of these materials is the most important source of, But Japan sees this dependence as dangerous and has taken steps accordingly, to reduce it.

Japan is one of the major consumers of rare earths. The country imported 2010 According to the customs statistics, nearly 28.600 t. The Development Bank of Japan is at the same time domestic consumption based on figures from the Ministry of Economy (METI) with 31.000 t an. The world demand reached about 136.000 t.

In 2011 Japan imported only about 22.500 t. A major reason for this was, that the major user sectors rare earths, above all the car- and the electrical and electronics industry, reinforced in the face of extreme increases in world market prices their efforts, to use less materials, to replace or recycle. The triple catastrophe of earthquake, Tsunami and the nuclear accident at Fukushima should have had a consumption-reducing.

Domestic consumption of rare earths on the application fields (in Tons)
Field of application IF-Metall 2010 1) 2011 2)
Polish Heaven 10.000 5.000
Optical lenses Lanthanum 2.800 1.500
Magnets Neodymium, Dysprosium 5.800 5.000
Autocatalyst Heaven 2.300 2.500
Batteries Mixed metals 3.000 3.000
FCC-Katalysatoren Lanthanum, Heaven 1.000 800
Other 6.100 5.200
Total 31.000 23.000

1) actual results; 2) Forecast

Those: Development Bank of Japan, December 2011

In its strategy, to reduce the high dependence on China, Japan goes against multiple track. For one thing, state and private companies, and in particular the major trading houses here, to open up in a very active resource diplomacy new sources of supply (see article “Japan wants to be independent of China's strategic metals” from 28.3.2012, http://www.gtai.de).

A second measure is, enough to create large stocks, to overcome supply shortages. Currently, inventories have compulsory for nine “strategic” Metals are held: Nickel, Chrome, Tungsten, Kobalt, Molybdenum, Mangan, Vanadium, Indium and gallium. METI is responsible to the under standing Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC).

Third, the private sector is looking for technical facilities, the “strategic” To replace metals with other materials and to reduce the consumption. These companies often receive financial support from the state. Thus, the METI published on 8.2.12 a list of 49 Projects, by including the domestic consumption in the long term tend to be scarce dysprosium within two years, currently 600 tonnes per year 400 t is to be reduced. The development of high performance magnets, which contain no or less dysprosium, for example, is the subject of a project with TDK. The METI supports the project with a total 50 Billion. Yen (457 My. Euro, 1 Euro = round 110 Yen), from the third supplementary budget for fiscal year 2011 (1.4. to 31.3.) are made available.

Motors for electric vehicles, among other things, and industrial machinery, do not use rare earth, is another field, which much attention is paid to. At the recent Tokyo exhibition for electric- and hybrid cars in mid-January 2012 presented as the Japanese firm Nidec a new SR motor (“switched reluctance”) before, no need of permanent magnets and therefore does not require materials such as neodymium and dysprosium. Nidec plant, SR motors from about 2013 to mass. The newspaper “Nikkan Kogyo Shinbun” End of February 2012 additional reports, Nidec wants to build manufacturing plants in Japan, China, Poland and Mexico to 2015 between 200 Billion. to 300 Billion. Yen to invest.

The goal, Save rare earths, also serves on the 7.12.11 created joint venture Intermetallics Japan Corporation. Partners are the specialty steel company Daido Steel, The trading house Mitsubishi Corp.. and the US-based Molycorp., the largest producer of rare earths outside of China. The capital of 8,3 Billion. Daido Yen holds a share of 35,5%. Attributable to Mitsubishi 34,5%, auf Molycorp. 30%.

The plan is, expected in January 2013 First year 500 t novel neodymium-iron-boron (NeFeB)-Permanent magnets to produce and commercialize. For this purpose, in Nakatsugawa (Gifu Prefecture) a new plant built. Fixed investment amount according to a report of the Economic Journal “Nikkei” on 10 Billion. Yen. The magnets are primarily intended for use in the auto industry. The “Nikkei” According had an unnamed major German car manufacturer has decided, use the new permanent magnets.

A broader and more efficient recycling of rare earths and other metals is the fourth priority of the Japanese strategy. Thus, for example in automotive catalytic converters and in small electric- and electronic equipment to find significant amounts of. Precise, reliable information on this can be difficult to determine but, But the newspaper has “Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun” calculated, that are no longer in the domestic PC used alone 14,9 t tantalum and unused mobile phones more 3,2 tons of this metal contained; this corresponds to 5% of the total domestic demand for tantalum.

The smaller the electric- and electronic equipment hidden “Wealth” should in future be better than previously recovered. While there are already mobile phones and computers for a regulated return system, so that the recycling rates are quite high: When she was about cell phones 2010 at 37,8%. But in the case of game consoles, Digital- and video cameras, DVD players and other devices, the situation is much worse.

Ministry of the Environment 2008/2009 in a number of regions of the country carried out pilot projects for recycling of small electrical appliances and discussed on this basis it, how to build a nationwide system and thus makes money for the import “strategic” Metals and other materials can be saved. The suggestions of an expert group to go there, such a system to 2014 build. However, there are still many open issues, not least the question, as a recovery may be financed.

In other metals for recycling, there are still plenty of room. The British chemical company Johnson Matthey wrote in their report “Platinum 2011″, that Japan, in the case of platinum autocatalyst 2010 only about 11% of its total demand of 545.000 Oz on recycling revealed. The average price per ounce was 2010 at 1.611 US$.

Similar to the question, as the consumption of metals can be reduced, has launched the private sector in view of the recycling projects. According to a report in the newspaper “Nikkei Business Daily” from mid-October 2011 Mitsubishi Materials is about 1 Billion. Yen to invest, the recovery capacity of no more big house used electrical appliances, among other things, air conditioners and refrigerators, in the company to Cetec 30% on year 520.000 Units to increase. Cetec based in Mie Prefecture, is a joint venture between Mitsubishi Materials and Panasonic. At the same time with the recycling of rare earth, including neodymium, be started. Furthermore, Hitachi has developed a new technology, To recycle rare earth magnets from hard drives and air conditioners. You should at 2013 be fully operational.

There are 13. Asia-Pacific Conference of German Business (MOT) by the 1. to 3. November 2012 in Gurgaon, New Delhi, take place. The APK, since the 1986 will be held every two years in Asia, has established itself as the most important networking meetings in the region. More than 700 Decision makers from companies, Federal ministries and organizations participated in the last FAC in Singapore 2010 part.

The local organization is the Indian Chamber of Commerce (Indo-German Chamber of Commerce, IGCC), for further information by e-mail address: apk2012@indo-german.com or on the following website: http://indien.ahk.de / apk / are available.

APK is organized by the Chambers of Commerce Abroad (AHKs) in the Asia-Pacific, the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business (APA) – with its support organizations the Federation of German Industries (BDI), German Industry and Commerce e.V. (Chambers), German Asia-Pacific Business Association (OAV), Federal Association of German Wholesale- and Foreign Trade (BGA) Bankers Association and – and the Federal Ministry of Economics (BMWi).
(Germany Trade & Invest gtai)

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