Rare Earths: Japan Cuts Out the Middleman

by | 22. Feb 2023 - 10:31 | Economy

Sumitomo to distribute raw materials from MP Materials in Japan.

Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation has been granted exclusive rights to distribute US-based MP Materials’ rare earth products in Japan. This was announced by the companies on Tuesday. MP Materials is the only company in the U.S. that mines rare earths and processes them into concentrate. The cooperation is to be expanded in the future, according to a press release.

MP Materials has so far shipped its precursors to China for further processing, and Japanese companies then buy the goods there, according to Bloomberg (paywall). In the future, the Japanese industry could bypass this middleman and increase its own market share in the production of rare earth magnets. Currently, the country ranks second behind China in this area, but only has a market share of about nine percent, according to industry service Argus.

MP Materials also wants to enter the production of these permanent magnets for electric cars and wind turbines; a corresponding factory is currently under construction in Texas. For Europe, the prospect of diversified supply chains could be positive news, because dependence on imports of components from China is oppressive; according to the European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA), 98 percent of magnets come from the Middle Kingdom.

Photo: Imago/xBarryxSweetx

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