UPDATE 2-Japan min: mulling starting rare earth stockpile

Fri Oct 1, 2010 7:11am GMT

* Ministry studying which rare earth minerals to include

* But will not buy minerals until prices stabilise

* Min:China started issuing rare earth export licenses (Adds background, quotes)

By Risa Maeda

TOKYO, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Japan is considering starting a stockpile of rare earth as a buffer against interruptions to usual commerce, its trade minister said on Friday, in the wake of China's de facto ban on exports of the minerals to the country.

Tokyo also announced measures such as supporting companies in shifting away from or recycling rare earth, in reaction to reports of an export halt following the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain near disputed islands last month and China's announcement in July that it would slash its export quota by 40 percent. [ID:nLDE68Q1OV]

China accounts for about 97 percent of the world's total production of rare earth, vital for electronics and auto parts, and around half of this is exported to Japan.

"We're considering a stockpile of rare earth minerals ... and studying prices and supply and demand situations," Akihiro Ohata said at a regular news conference on Friday.

The trade ministry has started considering which rare earth minerals should be in the stockpile as it is not practical to hold all 17 types, a ministry official said.   Continued...

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