Japan said on Feb. 25 that it would offer around 42 billion yen (US$513 million) in subsidies designed to slash the nation's reliance on Chinese rare-earth minerals by a third.
The ministry of economy, trade and industry will channel 33.1 billion yen into 160 private sector projects, while an additional 8.9 billion yen will be disbursed to other projects later this year, ministry officials said.
The recipients of the subsidies will use them to cover part of their investment in developing technologies to reduce rare-earth use, recycle the precious metals and develop alternative resources.
"In the mid- and long-term, we expect a reduction of its use by 10,000 tons a year, compared with 30,000 tons in present demand at home," the ministry said.
The subsidies are expected to encourage other private sector firms to follow suit, leading to a total of 110 billion yen in capacity investment, the ministry said.
China produces more than 95% of the world's rare earths, which are critical to manufacturing anything from iPods and missiles to low-emission cars and wind turbines. Beijing has moved to tighten controls over the elements by cracking down on heavily polluting producers, cutting quotas for overseas shipments and hiking export taxes.
Japanese industry sources said China temporarily cut off exports last year during a territorial row between Asia's two largest economies. China has denied halting exports.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011
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