Japan in rare-metal hunt with Botswana, SA

Japan will launch satellite searches for rare metals with Botswana and South Africa in a global race to secure industrial resources, a minister said in an interview published on Thursday.

Japan has a strong interest in platinum and other rare metals and minerals abundant in Africa as their prices are rising due to growing demand for use in high-tech goods.

China, formerly a major supplier of rare metals to Japan, has curbed exports and in turn has also reached out to Africa in its hunt for rare materials to fuel its rising economy.

Japan plans to employ a satellite to provide images that would be used to analyse possible deposits of precious resources.

Economy and industry minister Akira Amari, who left Tokyo on Wednesday for Africa, told the Yomiuri Shimbun that he expected to agree on the joint search with Botswanan President Festus Mogae.

Amari will stay in Botswana on Friday and Saturday, becoming the first Japanese minister in the country, and then visit South Africa for talks with President Thabo Mbeki.

Rare-metal buyers “cannot negotiate prices because they [the metals] are found unevenly in China and a small number of other nations,” Amari told the newspaper.

“Countries are competing with one another to get them and Japan should not lag behind.

“I want to help private companies obtain rights in the future by launching a search for rare metals buried in South Africa and Botswana,” he said.

An industry ministry official said China’s restrictions on exports of rare metals and minerals was behind the policy.

“China is rich in rare metals and other resources and boasts large production. The market is tightening as China has moved to put hefty duties on exports or restrict exports,” he said.

“We need to secure supply sources other than China,” he said.
- Sapa-AFP

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