Japanese researchers revealed on Thursday that they have discovered a possible rich source of rare earths on the Pacific seabed. The data they recovered suggests that the deposits could be 30 times better than China’s reserves, currently the source of 90% of the world’s supply of rare earths.
The mud samples were taken from the seabed near Minamitori Island, around 2,000 kilometers southeast of Tokyo. The samples showed concentration amounts of the precious minerals 10 times from that collected of the coast of Hawaii. Rare earths are vital for high-tech consumer electronics and are used in manufacturing products like wind turbines and iPods. But Japanese manufacturers have been complaining that Beijing was restricting exports of the materials, especially as tensions with China have intensified due to the territorial row regarding a group of islands in the East China Sea.
The researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and the University of Tokyo said that these rare earths are crucial for the manufacturing of Japan’s cutting-edge technologies and so it is urgent that they are able to secure stable supplies. The concentration was 20 to 30 times higher than from Chinese mines, and this could possibly be a boon to Japanese industries. Scientists believe the deposit contains about 6.8 million tons of the valuable materials, equivalent to almost 230 years worth of rare earths used in Japan.
The only stumbling block to the discovery is the depth of the deposit, as the cost of extracting supplies from such a depth and in such hostile conditions may prove problematic. There had been no successful commercial mining of rare earths below 5,000 meters.
[ via Zeenews ]