They are used for smartphones, electric vehicles and precision weapons. Beijing is the world's leading producer and accounts for 60% of Japanese imports. Demand for precious metals on the rise due to decarbonisation efforts. The US and its allies fear that the Chinese will use them for geopolitical purposes.
Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Japanese government wants to build a site to recycle the "rare minerals" used to produce smartphones, electric machines and precision weapons.
The move announced this morning by the Ministry of Industry aims to reduce dependence on China, which accounts for more than 60% of its imports of these metals.
The demand for precious metals is constantly growing. Decarbonisation efforts require the use of large amounts of lithium and cobalt to make batteries and other systems to generate renewable energy. The technology for recycling rare metals is still being tested; as well as for internal production, Tokyo aims to become an exporting country.
With 140,000 tons extracted in 2020, China is by far the world's leading producer of precious metals, followed by the United States (38,000), Myanmar (30,000) and Australia (17,000).
Growing political and trade tensions with Beijing are pushing Washington and its allies to become independent in this strategic sector.
The fear is that the Chinese could exploit precious metals for geopolitical purposes. It should be noted that quantities of rare metals are present in guided precision missiles, fighter jets and "smart" bombs. In this regard, Reuters revealed last December that the US military will build a plant for the use of rare metals for military purposes.