From Tokyo today, Honda Motor Co. said it would do something about escalating rare earth prices in a 95-percent Chinese controlled market by way of extracting the increasingly expensive metals from used gasoline powered and hybrid-electric car parts.

Reported as “the world’s first” mass-production process by the Economic Times, short of digging its own mines in the ground, this month Honda will begin mining junkyard refuse assembly line style.

To get the job done, Honda is collaborating with Japan Metals & Chemicals Co, and one example given was to salvage rare earth metals from nickel-metal hydride batteries received from Honda auto dealers around the world.

Honda said it has a new process that will reliably remove 80 percent of the rare earth metals in nickel-metal hydride batteries. These metals can then be reprocessed and recycled back to its new products.

Rare earth prices have been soaring as China has clamped down on exports to keep more of the minerals for its own manufacturing.

Meanwhile also, Japanese automakers and other are looking for suitable substitute materials to manufacture products that now rely on rare earths so as to bypass their reliance on them altogether.

Economic Times