ASIA The ‘Rim of Fire’countries are burning with promise, but . . .

Oct 01, 2007 | 12:53 PM |

In the shadow of China, Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines sometimes get overlooked in assessments of the global metal markets. But with raw material supplies likely to tighten in the coming years, the two nations are likely to play an increasingly significant role.

The countries, situated along the geologically active "Rim of Fire," are rich in mineral resources.

While relatively unfamiliar to many in the west, Indonesia—a massive archipelago that stretches for more than 3,000 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean—has a population almost equal to that of the United States. It also is thought to have some of the world's biggest untapped sources of raw materials, although no one's entirely sure what it contains—a recent scientific expedition to an area in the far east of the country discovered what researchers called an "Eden" of previously unknown species.

For mining companies as well as naturalists, Indonesia is one of the world's last frontiers, and sustained high commodity prices are now making it economical for companies to push into areas that were previously off limits.....

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