German groups seek rare-earth deal with Kazakhstan
German companies that want secure access to so-called rare earth elements are gearing up for a cooperative agreement with Kazakhstan, they said on Monday.
Worried by restrictions imposed by China, the world's leading producer of the critical elements used in high-tech products, companies have been working for half a year on the deal, Eckard Cordes, head of the distribution group Metro, told a press conference.
Cordes presides over a committee that represents companies active in Russia and central Asia for the German industrial federation BDI.
BDI has taken an active part in talks and consideration of the issue since Chancellor Angela Merkel paid a visit to Astana in July.
"Kazakhstan is absolutely ready to help Germany," Cordes said.
Rare earth elements are a collection of 17 substances that are not in fact rare but which are rarely found in quantities that make mining economically advantageous.
They are nonetheless critical for the manufacturing of items like iPods, low-emission cars, wind turbines and missiles.
"It is now up to (German) companies to launch projects" in Kazakhstan, said BDI official Rainer Lindner, who pointed to semi-conductor maker Infineon and the industrial groups Siemens and ThyssenKrupp.
If successful in Kazakhstan, the German companies might seek to establish similar contacts with Mongolia, he added.
© 2011 AFP