(Reuters) - Midland Exploration Inc said it started exploration with state-backed Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp (JOGMEC) in its Quebec rare earth project and set a 2011 budget of C$1.4 million.
In March, both the companies had agreed to jointly develop Ytterby rare earth elements project, giving JOGMEC the right to acquire 50 percent interest in the project before March 31, 2012 by funding C$2.5 million of the rare earth project.
Wind turbines and hybrid cars are among the biggest users of rare earth minerals, which analysts say are facing a global supply crunch as demand swells. The minerals are also used in some weapons systems.
This little-known class of 17 related elements is also used for a vast array of electronic devices ranging from Apple's iPhone to flat-screen TVs, all of which are competing for the 120,000 tones of annual global supply.
The first phase of Midland's 2011 exploration program will start in mid July, which include geological mapping, and the second phase will drill 2,000 meters to test the mineralization.
The Quebec-focused minerals explorer expects to drill 1,100 meters in Ytterby 2 and 900 meters in Ytterby 3.
The company targets 15 drill holes, which will target depths ranging from 70 to 200 meters, Midland said in a statement.
JOGMEC was established in February 2004, following the integration of the former Japan National Oil Corporation (JNOC) and Metal Mining Agency of Japan (MMAJ) and it is under the Japanese ministry of economy, trade and industry.
Shares of the company closed at C$1.79 on Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Reporting by Aftab Ahmed in Bangalore; Editing by Don Sebastian