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Hitachi Develops Machinery to Recycle Rare Earths

Hitachi said the machine can extract 100 rare earth magnets from hard disk drives per hour, about eight times faster than manual labor. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg
Hitachi said the machine can extract 100 rare earth magnets from hard disk drives per hour, about eight times faster than manual labor. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Hitachi Ltd. said it developed machinery to harvest rare earth metals from discarded hard-disk drives and compressors as electronics makers seek to reduce their reliance on Chinese supply.

The machine can extract 100 rare earth magnets from hard disk drives per hour, about eight times faster than manual labor, Tokyo-based Hitachi said in a statement today. The company plans to get 10 percent of its rare-earth needs through recycling when the business begins operating in fiscal 2013, according to spokeswoman Satoko Yasunaga.

Japanese electronics makers plan to cut their dependence on supply from China, which produces 97 percent of the world’s supply of the materials also used in electric-car batteries, wind turbines and missiles. China’s rare-earth exports fell 77 percent in October from a month earlier as the government cut quotas for the second half.

Hitachi rose 0.7 percent to 413 yen as of 11 a.m. on the Tokyo Stock exchange. Shares of the industrial group, Japan’s third biggest company by revenue, have gained 45 percent this year, while the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average declined 3.8 percent.

Rare earths refer to a group of 17 metal elements, including lanthanum, cerium and neodymium, used in manufacturing Boeing Co. helicopter blades, Raytheon Co. missiles, Toyota Motor Corp. hybrids and Hitachi’s disk drives and air conditioners. Japan is the world’s biggest user of the metals.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jason Clenfield in Tokyo at jclenfield@bloomberg.net; Maki Shiraki in Tokyo at Mshiraki1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net

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