Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. has discovered veins of platinum and other rare metals in South Africa, the organization said.
With 95 percent of the world's platinum group elements buried in South Africa, Japan has to compete in obtaining mineral interests with the world's rivals, including the United States and China.
This marks the first time a Japan company has obtained mineral rights in a project from the exploration stage.
JOGMEC and Canada's Platinum Group Metals Ltd. surveyed mines in the northeastern part of South Africa in September and October.
They confirmed platinum group metals, such as platinum and palladium, graded 3.47 grams to 7.00 grams per ton, at vertical depths of 643-666 meters, sources said.
The newly discovered metals are of the world's highest grade and the amount is much higher than what had been discovered in another mine in the area that commercially produced 3.31 grams per ton, they said.
JOGMEC plans to continue exploring the area until 2013 to confirm the mine's extent so it can start commercial production in the latter half of the decade.
JOGMEC had agreed to the Canadian company earning 37 percent from the project.
Although Itochu Corp. earned a 10 percent stake for investing in the project in June, JOGMEC was the first to obtain mineral rights by joining the project from the exploration stage.
Platinum group metal is used not only for jewelry--70 percent is used in industrial applications, including as a catalyst to reduce automotive emissions, as well as material for electronic appliances and for fuel cell electrodes.
South Africa produced 75 percent of the world's platinum and 37 percent of the world's palladium in 2010.
There is a pressing need for Japan to obtain a stake in rare metals so it can continue producing vehicles and other products.
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