Development of rare earths, marine minerals proposed by ocean policy panel

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, right, receives proposed recommendations from Akihiko Tanaka, who chairs the government’s advisory panel of the Headquarters for Ocean Policy, at the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday.

Proposals calling for Japan to promote the development of rare earths and other marine minerals from the viewpoint of economic security have been compiled by a government panel.

The proposed recommendations were compiled Wednesday by the Councilors’ Meeting of the Headquarters for Ocean Policy to form the basis of a draft of the next Basic Plan on Ocean Policy. The basic plan serves as a guideline for Japan’s marine policy.

The panel is chaired by Akihiko Tanaka, the president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency who submitted the proposals to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida the same day.

The recommendations state that it is important from the viewpoint of economic security to promote the development of marine energy and mineral resources, such as rare earths, methane hydrates, oil and natural gas. In particular, it proposes the promotion of research and development of technologies for the recovery and investigation of rare earths concentrated in the deep seabed as a national strategy.

High-tech electronic products rely heavily on rare-earth materials, with China said to account for about 60% of the world’s production of rare earths. In light of China’s maritime expansion, the proposals urge the strengthening of maritime law enforcement capabilities through cooperation between the Japan Coast Guard and the Maritime Self-Defense Force, as well as the use of unmanned aircraft and artificial intelligence analysis technology.

With an eye toward the realization of a decarbonized society, the paper also calls for the construction of a marine transportation network to secure hydrogen and ammonia fuel, as well as the promotion of disaster prevention and mitigation measures using digital technology.

Based on the proposals, the government will decide as early as May next year on a new five-year Basic Plan on Ocean Policy for the fiscal year that starts April 2023.