Toshiba goes to Kazakhstan for rare metals
Following its agreement last year with the President of Mongolia to secure a supply of rare metals, Toshiba has set up a rare metal jv with Kazatomprom, the Kazakhstan state company which oversees its nuclear industry. The jv will be called KT Rare Metals Company and is owned 51% Kazatomprom and 49% Toshiba.
Toshiba and Kazatomprom reached a basic agreement on establishing a JV in rare metals including rare earth elements in June 2010. The JV has now received all necessary approvals from the Kazakhstan government, allowing the JV to be incorporated and to start operation.
KT Rare Metals combines Kazatomprom’s expertise in rare metals extraction and production with Toshiba’s experience in the development and manufacture of products and their sales and marketing. The JV will conduct global sales and marketing of products based on rare metals.
With the support of Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National, Toshiba is investigating the establishment of processes for the effective recovery of rare metals including rare earth elements from uranium pregnant solutions at uranium extraction operations in Kazakhstan.
The jv will study the extraction, marketing and sales of rhenium, used in superalloys for airplanes and gas turbines, and of certain rare earth materials used in motors for electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles.
Last November Japan’s prime minister Naoto Kan, met the Mongolian president Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, and they agreed to build a strategic partnership and to secure mutually beneficial cooperation in developing mineral resources in Mongolia.
That resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding to talk about co-development of Mongolia’s mineral resources, including uranium, rare earth and rare metals.
That happened shortly after China, which controls some 97% of rare earth production, stopped rare earth exports to Japan.
China reduced rare metals exports generally by 40% in 2010, and the US government is considering moves to re-open rare earth mining and production ii the US.
US suppliers stopped mining these minerals, which are in plentiful supply in the US, on grounds of commercial viability.
Canada is also moving into rare earth production. Australia refused to sell a rare earth mine to the Chinese after it had already sold one to them.
Usage of rare metals grows by about 9% a year.