Korea is making China’s current near-monopoly over the global rare earths metal market look far less threatening. The nation has just discovered a large source of rare earth metals within its borders, after being dependent on imports for the majority of its needs:
“We found rare earth minerals while developing an iron ore mine,” Kang Shin Young, a spokesman at Korea Resources, said by phone today. “We do not know about reserves and need more exploration.”
The deposit in Gangwon contains a large quantity of rare metal reserves and will be in production in 2012, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper earlier cited an unidentified official at Korea Resources as saying.
The surprising factor here isn’t that Korea has rare earth metals. In fact, rare earth metals are actually rather common and China just produces most of the world’s supply since many nations shut down their old mines decades ago due to labour cost and environmental issues.
What’s surprising is how quickly Korea thinks it can bring its new discovery to production. 2012 is just two years away, and thus this news shows how countries might be able to restart their own rare earths production rather quickly in response to concerns of China using rare earths exports as a political weapon as it is suspected of doing recently with Japan.