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International standards for rare earths being developed

  • 2015-11-03 15:00:00
  • , Nikkei
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(Nikkei: November 3, 2015 – p. 2)


 A move is underway to create international standards for rare earths, which are used in magnets among other products. At the proposal of China, an International Organization for Standardization Technical Committee (ISO/TC) composed of representatives of six countries, including Japan, has been formed to develop ISO standards for rare earths by the end of 2016. The international standards are expected to go into effect in three years or so. Japan seeks to have its specifications reflected in the standards, including those for magnets used in vehicles.


 Japan, the United States, Australia, South Korea, and India will participate in the TC with China acting as secretariat. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Japan Society of Newer Metals, which is located in Tokyo’s Minato Ward and composed of companies that handle rare earths, are performing the technical work for the Japan side.


 The standards will govern storage and transport methods as well as methods for testing and analyzing the elements in compounds. The integration of standards will reduce the amount of time and money that individual companies spend on inspecting rare earths at time of trade.


 Japan decided to participate in the TC to ensure that Japan’s rare earth products do not become noncompliant under the new ISO standards. Japan will seek to have the methods it has developed to analyze the composition of rare earths included in the standards.


 The United States was wary of the Chinese initiative at first, but decided to participate in the TC at the urging of industry.


 China, the world’s largest producer of rare earths, aims to rebuild its related industries by taking the leadership role in creating international standards. The prices of rare earths rose when China placed a de facto embargo on the export of the metals [to Japan] after the fallout between the two nations over the Senkaku Islands in 2010. Today, however, prices have dropped substantially as global demand has declined. (See pie chart below for rare earth stats.)

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