Japan to China: Don't Bogart That Dysprosium

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Ironically enough, the name of the rare earth element "dysprosium" is derived from the Greek δυσπροσιτος [dysprositos] meaning "hard to obtain." But obtain it Toyota must; the element is crucial for the manufacturer of nickel metal hydride batteries and hybrid engines. The Guardian Newspaper reports that Japanese Trade Minister Akira Amari is lobbying China to ease-up on their tightening grip on dysprosium, platinum (needed for catalytic converters) and other rare metals. Earlier this year, China banned duty-free exports of rare earth ores for processing. On Wednesday, the PRC announced it would bar foreign investment in mining rare minerals or those that can't be recycled. China produces roughly 90 percent of Japan's rare earth earth minerals (i.e. "China's got Japan's manufacturers by the throat."). According to CBC News, that's because "Over the past two decades, China has tapped into a motherlode of cheap, easy-to-extract, rare earth resources, byproducts of the country's Bayan Obo iron ore operations in the north." Minister Amari isn't placing all his elements in one basket. He's also heading to South Africa and Botswana to secure alternative supplies. What was that about the total environmental impact of hybrids?

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

More by Robert Farago

Join the conversation
4 of 9 comments
  • Franz Franz on Nov 08, 2007

    FreeMan, "Rare" earth elements are rather common in the earth's crust, generally. They are named that because they're not cooked inside.

  • CB1000R CB1000R on Nov 08, 2007

    Sorry I have nothing pithy to add. But that headline IS the funniest in weeks...

  • EJ_San_Fran EJ_San_Fran on Nov 08, 2007

    RF, Excellent topic. There are many more scarce materials that we'll be relying on in the future. For instance, most of the lithium (you know, for all those Li-ion batteries) comes from a single country: Chile. Maybe we can send Bob Lutz to Chile to conquer lithium? (Actually, Chile has a lot of lithium so it's not all that scarce, but what if Pinochet comes back?)

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Nov 09, 2007

    Personal experience has taught me not to invest in Canadian companies. Despite the niceness of the average Canadian, their companies and business environment are just plain unethical. Most Canadians I met had a STRONG preference for working for American owned companies.