Recently the Asahi News reported the following:
On the 22nd, it was understood that Sumitomo Corporation was examining the importation of rare earth (rare earthes) from mines in the United States. China that accounted for 90 percent of the rare earth world production was strengthening the restriction on export, and Sumitomo Corporation aimed at securing the procurement from destinations other than China. The movement of "De-China" by Japan-U.S. had become full-scale.
The object of importation under investigation was a mine of the Moriko-pu Co. at Mountain Pass in U.S. California state. It was scheduled to restart mining in the first half of 2011 although it had been in a dormancy state at the moment. Using newly established equipment to do separation and refinement, and smelting there were plans to make the system to produce 20,000 tons yearly up to the end of 12 years.
On top of the capital of several ten billion yen scale would be needed, Japanese firms had a lot of related patents in the establishment of new equipment. Sumitomo Corporation examined the investment and the financing, and seemed to be conferring on solving cooperating difficulties on the technical side.
The world demand for the rare earth in the year 2011 ( Chinese domestic demand excluded) would be 56,800 tons according to Double Day, a big trader, and the short supply would be 16,800 tons. Japan expected to face a short supply of the balance of over 10,000 tons, and Sumitomo Corporation would secure export to Japan from this mine.
Entering the 90's, the mine at Mountain Pass was defeated by the low price offensive of the rare earth of China, and the mine was resting though it had once boasted as the world's largest production site. However, since the year 2006 China valued the resource value of rare earth, and began to decrease the number of export permission. As such, capitals in the United States paid attention to the mine at Mountain Pass.
It was said the mine was of better quality than other mines, and other Japanese trading companies and enterprises were also interested in the rare earth of this mine.
It seems that Japan is preparing to rely more on the US on the importation of raw materials.