A team of Japanese scientists have found a large source of rare earth minerals in the country’s surrounding Pacific Ocean. The deposit, believed to be close to 6.8 million tons, is in the seabed near the island of Minamitorishima, approximately 2000 kilometers (1,243 miles) to the east of Tokyo. The researchers, led by University of Tokyo professor Yasuhiro Kato, say that this is the first time such a large deposit of rare earths has been found in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, and add that the amount is enough supply Japan for almost 227 years worth of its consumer electronics and hybrid car engine needs.
It is believed that close to 90% of the world’s rare earth minerals are found in China alone, and 60% of those are imported by Japan. It isn’t just Japan that feels the tight squeeze of China’s increasing trade restrictions, as they are joined by both the U.S. and European Union in seeking the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s help in putting an end to China’s unfair practices. China claims its limitations are due to the toll on the environment made by processing the minerals, however many suspect that the real reason is force foreign companies dependent on the exports to set up manufacturing in China.
There has been a recent announcement about Japan and Vietnam working together to lessen each other’s dependence on China. There is believed to be large deposits of rare earth minerals in Vietnam, which they would love to capitalize on. Japan has the financing and technology needed in order to process the minerals. With the combination of Japan’s own deposit, this could be a huge first step the minerals needed around the world coming from somewhere other than China.
[Via The Australian]