Mineral resources, already relatively limited in Japan, are in decline and as a result, the country is highly reliant on imports. This section will provide you with detailed information about precious metals; platinum, palladium, silver and gold and other metals such as aluminium, copper, lead & zinc and steel. It will also cover rare earth elements and the various steps which the Japanese government has taken to secure its future supply of metals in order to sustain its competitive edge in the industrial sector. The page on rare earth elements will look at Japan’s future opportunities including; urban mining and the possible exploitation of a vast reserve of rare earth elements discovered on Japan’s ocean floor in 2013.


Rare Earths and Metals

Access to rare earth metals is crucial for maintaining Japan’s competitive edge in the manufacturing industry. These elements are used for advanced industries such as electronics, automotive and information technology. Thirty-one ores are designated as rare metals that are important for Japan to secure a stable supply.

As Japan is poor in natural resources it is highly reliant on other countries for its supply of raw materials. The Japanese government is searching for new and alternatives sources of rare earth and rare materials.

Steel and Aluminium

Japan is one of the largest aluminium importers in Asia; its transportation and automobile industries have particularly large aluminium requirements.

Japan is also the world’s second largest steel producer, it is also the second biggest steel-exporting country in Asia (mostly to China, South Korea and Thailand). To meet demand, it is no surprise that Japan is also one of the world’s three largest iron ore importers.

Almost 80% of Japan’s steel production capacity is controlled by just 5 big companies, so market entry is extremely difficult. Steel production is concentrated around Tokyo Bay, Osaka Bay, and Hakata Bay.