Japan took another step
toward lessening its rare earths
dependence today, announcing plans to drastically reduce consumption levels in response to China's continued market dominance
. Of particular concern to the Japanese government is dysprosium -- a rare earth used in the production of high-powered magnets. China, which accounts for about 95 percent of the world's rare earth supply, has been tightening export controls on the metal in recent months, sending global prices skyward. With its domestic supplies dwindling, Japan has now committed to reducing its dysprosium consumption by 30 percent over the next few years, as part of a $65 million initiative. Much of that money will presumably go toward helping manufacturers develop alternative production and recycling methods, as some already have. Toyota, for instance, has found a way to produce hybrid and electric vehicles without using dysprosium, while Mitsubishi, Panasonic and TDK are currently looking at ways to extract the metal from old air conditioners. If effective, the government's program would reduce domestic consumption by between 200 and 400 tonnes per year.