SEOUL, Oct. 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will purchase and stockpile some 76,000 tons of rare metals by 2016 to ensure steady future supplies of the elements used to produce its key export items, such as semiconductors and displays, the government said Friday.
Rare metals refer to 35 elements, including 17 chemical substances that are named rare earth elements, such as scandium and yttrium. They have been in the media spotlight following China's recent halt in exports of rare earth elements to Japan over a territorial dispute.
South Korea currently produces nearly none of the rare materials, but needs significant and steady supplies of them to keep producing its high-tech products that are also its key export items.
As a way to secure future supplies, the country will seek to launch joint exploration projects in overseas countries while closely studying 11 possible mineral zones already identified here by 2013 to determine whether there, in fact, exist rare metals, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said.
The country will also start purchasing more materials from foreign exporters to increase its reserve of eight strategic elements, including chromium and molybdenum, to 76,000 tons by 2016.
To this end, Seoul is currently building a 17 billion won (US$15.3 million) storage facility for completion by 2011, it said.
"The measures are to at least secure safe amounts of rare materials, whose global demand will definitely rise in the future along with the development of new tech-heavy industries," a ministry official said.
The measures were finalized Friday at a meeting of related ministers, including finance and foreign ministers.
Under the plan, the country will also boost its bilateral and multilateral cooperation with exporting countries, especially China, which currently produces 97 percent of global supplies of rare metals, to ensure steady supplies in the future.
In addition, Seoul will work to develop new and indigenous technologies that will help increase the recycle rate of rare metals, the ministry said.
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