Recent research has revealed a growing shortage of rare earth metals that are essential for many technology products such as mobile phones. This has been accentuated by the fact that China controls almost all of global output and has started to restrict exports.
The UK has protected its position to an extent by being in the forefront of recycling electronics and recovering rare earth metals. Japan has been forced to consider becoming a centre for rare earth recycling itself following China’s decision to block shipments of rare earth metals to Japan since 21 September for political reasons. However, the Chinese Government denies any official ban on exporting rare earth metals. Normally, nearly two-thirds of China’s rare earth exports go to Japan.
In addition to looking for alternative supplies, Japan is planning to mine rare earth metals in Vietnam and intends to work together with the Vietnamese to extract the precious metals. Japan is trying to reduce the risk of depending on just one country for its supplies of vital materials.
This latest development affecting the supply of rare earth metals to a country with such a key role in the manufacture of technology could have an important affect on the global mobile phone recycling market if Japan decides to become a world centre for the recycling of electronics.