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Toyota affiliate buys half a Canadian rare earth deposit

Posting in Energy

The sleepy village of Kipawa in western Quebec could wake up soon to a bustling rare earth business.

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As I've reported here a few times recently, Japanese companies are developing innovative materials and processes to help free themselves from China's infamous grip on the global supply of vital rare earth minerals.

But while they figure out things like alternative materials and how to spray on and recycle rare earths, they're also stepping up a more conventional approach by finding rare earth sources - in other countries where rare earth activity is beginning to pick up.

Case in point: An affiliate of automotive giant Toyota is buying 49 percent of a Canadian rare earth exploration and mining company, as first reported by Australia's International Business Times.

The Kipawa deposit is in Matamec's Zeus property in southwest Quebec.

Toyotsu Rare Earth Canada has just completed a second installment on the transaction, paying $1.1 million to Canada's Matamec Explorations Inc., following an initial payment of around $8.5 million in July. The July remittance gave Toyotsu a 25 percent stake, and the company will pay a total of around $7.5 million - including the $1.3 million - to bring it up to 49 percent

In a press release on its website, Matamec describes itself as a "junior mining exploration company" that is focused on exploring for heavy rare earth deposits in Kipawa, Quebec, in partnership with Toyotsu. It is also exploring for the rare earth elements yttrium, zirconium, niobium and tantalum on Matamec's Zeus property  in the Kipawa Alkalic Complex.

Car makers like Toyota build rare earth metals into hybrid vehicles, and also into conventional cars where they're used in catalytic converters. Rare earths are also across a broad range of goods, from missiles to magnets to iPods.

Rare earth mining and processing can be environmentally hazardous. China controls over 95 percent of the market, and restricts exports, so other countries are beginning to increase their own rare earth activity.

Toyotsu is a subsidiary of Toyota-Tsusho Corp., which is a subsidiary of Toyota.

Images: Kipawa from P199 via Wikimedia. Map from Matamec.

More rare unearthings on SmartPlanet

— By on November 4, 2012, 8:56 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure