Japan's stockpile of rare earth minerals could dry up by March or April without fresh imports from China, which has stopped shipping them, a senior Japanese government official said Thursday.From NextNature:
Yoshikatsu Nakayama, vice-minister of the economy, trade and industry, said China was yet to normalise the Japan-bound exports of the minerals used in high-tech products, ranging from televisions to hybrid cars.
"With recycling, imports from sources other than China, and cooperation among (Japanese) companies, it (the existing stock) seems to last until March or April," he told Japanese reporters, according to Jiji Press.
China has not officially declared an export ban, but all of 31 Japanese companies handling rare earth minerals had reported disruption or stopping of shipments.
China, which controls more than 95 percent of the global market, stopped shipment last month after Japan arrested a Chinese trawler captain in disputed waters.
The Chinese government has denied officially ordering an export ban.
But Chinese authorities have required additional documents and fresh administrative headaches to Chinese businesses, discouraging them from exporting rare earths to Japan, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said.
Japanese firms have asked for shipment of the products via a third country, such as South Korea, but Chinese firms have refused, fearing that authorities may find out, the Asahi said....MORE
Urban Mining – Gold digging in the Sewers
Resource-poor Japan discovered a new source of mineral wealth: sewage sludge. In its first month of operation, a sewage plant in Japan’s Nagano prefecture has mined 5 million yen ($56,000) worth of gold from sludge.From TreeHugger:
Sewage plant operator Nagano Prefecture Suwa Construction Office announced that approximately four pounds of gold can be mined from each ton of molten fly ash generated when incinerating sludge at its facility in the town of Suwa. That is better than the 20 to 40 grams of golden metal retrieved from each ton of ore at Japan’s Hishikare mine, according to Reuters.
Joint research conducted in 2007 by Nagano prefecture and the Japan Sewage Works Agency found that the concentration of gold in the ash was comparable to that of a high-grade ore. But because the cost of extracting the gold outweighed the potential profit, the operator continued treating the ash as an industrial waste material....MORE
Urban Mining: The Hunt For Rare Metals
Urban mining is a new concept for getting more people to recycle their old electronic gadgets and other stuff that contains precious metals. These include gold, silver, platinum, iridium and a range of others, that make your cell phone go beep and blink. Without these rare metals, the Pantone colours on my Sharp 812SH display would look a lot less bright, and you can probably forget about your new iPhone display, as they become too expensive to mass-produce.
In northern Japan, Takashi Nakamura, a professor at Tohoku University working on the urban mining project in Akita, notes that if Japan wants to survive the era of industrialization, the government should create a social framework to collect rare metals as soon as possible. In Akita, they have set up special recycle boxes at supermarkets....MORE