Continued from Part Two.
As far as India’s REE plan goes: to begin with, the Indian government decided to put all the strategic minerals, metals and rare earths into one basket, calling it the Mining Working Group for the 12th Plan (2012-17).
A proposal was put forth to set up a national body in a couple of years with an investment of about US $90 million to source rare earths. There will also be an inter-ministerial group with some industry stakeholders to identify countries for the signing of bilateral agreements for the securing of strategic minerals.
Veering Towards Japan
One of India’s closest international partners in this field has been Japan. In fact, a few months ago, both nations had spoken of conducting a joint sea-bed exploration mission for rare earths. In the latest announcement by the minister regarding digging up the ocean floor, Indian newspapers like the Deccan Herald, quoting unnamed sources, have spoken about India getting some help from Japan.
So close are the ties between the two nations that when India decided to resume its exports of rare earths last year, after a gap of almost seven years, Japan was first on the list. About 6,000 tons of rare earth chloride were earmarked for export by Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL) in 2011 to a Japanese company, Toyota Tsusho.
What could also add to this relationship is Japan’s discovery of a rare earths deposit in the Pacific Ocean. Japanese newspapers reported it to be close to 6.8 million tons in the seabed near the island of Minamitorishima.
Two Indian states – Odisha and Andhra Pradesh – have also shown an inclination to go with the Japanese, especially on the development and reuse of rare earths with India.
Just last week, the Andhra Pradesh state government approved a project by the Toyotsu Rare Earths India Pvt. Ltd. to build a plant at the port city of Visakhapatnam. Toyotsu Rare Earths Orissa Private Ltd. has also made moves to construct a manufacturing plant for processing rare earth oxide in Orissa with the cooperation of IREL.
Sector analysts now say the focus in the coming days will be in the contentious South China Sea, which many nations — including China — are eyeing for more rare earths deposits.