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Japan to step up mineral exploration in Pacific: report

by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 3, 2011
Japan is to step up its search for undersea mineral reserves in the Pacific, according to a media report on Monday, setting up a likely exploration race with China and South Korea.

The Japanese government plans to begin fully fledged surveys near Minamitorishima, the nation's southeasternmost territory, during the 12 months from April, the Nikkei business daily said.

Rare earth metals and minerals such as manganese, cobalt, nickel, platinum, neodymium are believed to lie beneath the seabed near the island, located some 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) southeast of Tokyo, the daily said.

The Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. has been conducting basic surveys in the waters but the government has decided to take direct control of the project, it said.

The government plans to spend part of a budget of 6.8 billion yen (84 million dollars) set aside for promoting undersea mineral deposit development and related activities for the next fiscal year, it said.

China, South Korea and other neighbouring countries have also shown interest in exploring natural resources in the waters just outside Japan's exclusive economic zone around Minamitorishima, Nikkei said.

Japan is trying to secure a reliable source of rare earth minerals, used in the manufacture of high-tech goods, after China stopped shipments of the commodity to Japan late last year over a territorial row.

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