Only state-selected companies are to be allowed to participate in the extraction of critical raw materials in Japanese waters.
Japan plans to strictly regulate access to rare earth deposits within its so-called exclusive economic zone (EEZ) with a bill published this week. As Nikkei Asia reports, only mining companies approved by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will be allowed to extract the rare earths found there. EEZs, or 200-mile zones, grant limited sovereign rights to a coastal state adjacent to them under Article 55 of the Law of the Sea Convention, including exclusive use of the resources present.
Japan’s rare earth deposits were only discovered in 2013 and have not previously been covered by the Mining Act. According to the journal Nature, they are located near the coral island of Minami-Torishima at a depth of 6,000 meters. A port is being built on the island for the commercial development of these and other raw materials, with completion expected in spring 2022, The Japan News reported earlier this year.
The amendment is also expected to give state-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. (JOGMEC) opportunities to support the processing of domestically produced raw materials through investments and loan guarantees for refineries, Nikkei Asia added. Currently, JOGMEC’s regulations only allow aid to refineries located abroad, mostly in China. Rare earth processing plants are expected to make supply chains less prone to disruption.
Back in August, the country announced that it wanted to monitor foreign investments in the rare earths and technology metals industry more closely in order to protect them from Chinese access, for example (we reported). This is likely to be the background for the new law, which is expected to be voted on at the beginning of the new year.
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