TOKYO, Mar 23 (AFP): Japan plans to stockpile more rare metals used in high-tech goods because of concern that rising demand from the booming Chinese economy could create supply shortages, a report said today.
Japan set up a scheme in 1983 to hold emergency reserves of manganese and six other rare metals mainly used in steel products.
It now intends to widen it to include platinum, indium and rare-earth elements to try to protect the competitiveness of Japan's high-tech industries, the regional Tokyo Shimbun said without naming its sources.
The move follows a request by Japanese industry for the scheme to be enhanced because of growing concern that the Chinese economy's huge appetite for commodities will make it increasingly tough to source rare metals.
Japanese automakers use platinum for fuel cells and devices to control automobile emissions. Indium is used in liquid crystal displays and rare- earth elements in gas-electric hybrid vehicles.
Under the enhanced scheme the government would set numerical targets for their reserve levels, the report said.
An official at the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy denied that the government had already decided to broaden the reserve scheme.
But he said a study group advising the agency's head had been discussing since December possible measures to ensure a stable supply of 31 kinds of mineral resources.
The private advisory panel formed by officials from mining companies, manufacturing firms and academics, recognizes "the situation has changed" since 1983 when Japan first established the reserve scheme, the official said.
"The Chinese economy has drawn their attention in addition to higher domestic demand" due to strong sales of digital electronics products, he said, asking not to be named.
Japan and China are also vying for energy supplies from Russia and are embroiled in a spat over oil and gas development in disputed territory in the East China Sea.