Recent diplomatic conflicts resulted in China temporarily banning rare earth metal exports to Japan, a vital resource to Japan's high-tech production industry. Realizing the need for a wider array of rare earth supply, Japan is increasingly pursuing the recycling of rare metals, also known as "urban mining," as seen in this video from Reuters.
Urban mining is the process of extracting rare earth metals from discarded electronic products, which are ubiquitous in Japan, to reuse in new electronic products. The process is not only much more environmentally friendly, but also mitigates Japan's dependence on China for the metals. According to Reuters, China produces 90% of the world's rare earth, and reduced exports by 40% this year, with an additional 30% cut announced for 2011.
Japan is currently focusing around $1.2 billion toward rare earth research, as well as exploring new supply routes and stockpiling the metals, Reuters reports.