Toshiba hunts for rare metals in Kazakhstan

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Japanese firm Toshiba said it has signed a letter of intent with Kazatomprom, a firm owned by the Republic of Kazakhstan, to create a joint venture in rare metals.

Toshiba already has an agreement with Kazakhstan - two years ago they jointly announced a partnership in the field of nuclear energy. Toshiba is a participant in the Kharassan uranium mine development project in the country. Kazatomprom is an indirect minority shareholder in Westinghouse Electric.

Toshiba is a majority shareholder in Westinghouse Electric.

The letter of intent means the two companies will hunt for rare metals, including rare earth. They will hunt for beryllium and tantalum.

Demand for rare earth, said Toshiba, is increasing because they are used in electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles and there's a need for stable supplies of the stuff.

Toshiba and Kazatomprom want to recover and use by-products from uranium mines such as Dysprosium, Neodymium and Rhenium.

And, in what is no coincidence, Shiro Kawashita, a corporate vice president of Toshiba, has been named honorary consul of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Osaka. Toshiba has donated sakura trees to Kazakhstan for planting in the two main cities in the country, Astana and Almaty.

Kazakhstan, according to the CIA World Fact Book, is a republic with authoritarian presidential rule, and with little power outside the executive branch.