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Korea seeks to secure more rare earths

Korea will seek to secure more rights to rare earth element deposits in the new year to counter moves by China to reduce its export quota for the vital resource, the government said Tuesday.

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy said action must be taken to deal with potential shortfalls in supply that could have a serious industrial impact.

Rare earth elements, deposits of which are centered in only a few countries, are needed to make most information technology products such as semiconductors and display panels.

Beijing, which is a major producer, announced on Dec. 28 that it plans to initially limit its export quota for rare earth elements to 14,446 tons in 2011, down from 30,000 tons last year and 50,000 tons in 2009.

“There is a need to counter possible problems in supply and demand,” a government official said.

He said joint development efforts are under way with countries such as Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan, South Africa and Australia that may have commercially significant deposits.

Korea will also pursue work with Japan to conduct research and development to find alternatives to rare earth elements in the industrial field, the official added.

Korea, which depends heavily on energy and resources imports, said in December that it would seek to nearly quadruple combined self-sufficiency rates of rare earths and lithium to 26 percent by 2019 from 7.3 percent in 2009 as part of a broader move to beef up resources self-sufficiency.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy said last month that it would double combined self-sufficiency rates for rare earths and other strategic minerals to 10 percent this year from 5.5 percent last year.

(From news reports)
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