Japan to survey Pacific seabed for rare earths

January 10, 2013
Waste is processed at a privately owned rare-earths factory on April 21, 2011 on the outskirts of Baotou city, in Inner Mongolia. China produces more than 90 percent of the world's supply of rare earths, but has clamped down on exports of them in a move Beijing says is aimed at protecting its environment and conserving supplies.

Japan will launch a survey of its Pacific seabed, an official said, hoping to find rare earth deposits large enough to supply its high-tech industries and reduce its dependence on China.

Researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology will start the probe from January 21 on the near Minamitorishima island, some 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) southeast of Tokyo, he said.

Finding large-scale proven reserves inside Japan's exclusive economic zone would be a boost to Japanese industry, which currently relies on imports from China.

These imports have in the past fallen victim to the delicate political relationship between the two countries, notably in 2010, when manufacturers complained supply was being squeezed during a spat over disputed islands.

The row, over a Tokyo-controlled archipelago known as the Senkakus that Beijing claims as the Diaoyus, has flared anew in recent months.

The survey will follow an earlier finding by Tokyo University professor Yasuhiro Kato, who took mud samples from an area.

He said these indicated deposits amounted to around 6.8 million tonnes of the valuable minerals, or 220 times the average annual amount used by industry in Japan.

Rare earths are used to make a wide range of high tech products, including powerful magnets, batteries, LED lights, , lasers, and missiles.

China produces more than 90 percent of the world's supply of , but has clamped down on exports of them in a move Beijing says is aimed at protecting its environment and conserving supplies.

Explore further: India agrees to long-term supply of rare earths for Japan

Related Stories

WTO chief plays down China rare earth row

March 16, 2012

The head of the World Trade Organization on Friday played down a dispute over China's controls on exports of rare earth minerals, saying it was unlikely to escalate into a trade war.

Japan, US, and EU to meet on rare earths

March 21, 2012

Japan said Wednesday it will host the European Union and United States at a meeting on developing alternatives for rare earths as Chinese controls on the key minerals raise fears of a supply squeeze.

Hitachi unveils motor without 'rare earths'

April 11, 2012

Japanese high-tech firm Hitachi Wednesday unveiled an electric motor that does not use "rare earths", aiming to cut costs and reduce dependence on imports of the scarce minerals from China.

China cuts rare earths mining permits

September 19, 2012

(AP)—China has cut the number of permits for rare earths mining in a new move to tighten controls over the exotic minerals needed to manufacture mobile phones, electric cars and other high-tech goods.

Recommended for you

Ice sheets may be more resilient than thought

September 3, 2015

Sea level rise poses one of the biggest threats to human systems in a globally warming world, potentially causing trillions of dollars' worth of damages to flooded cities around the world. As surface temperatures rise, ice ...

Clues from ancient Maya reveal lasting impact on environment

September 3, 2015

Evidence from the tropical lowlands of Central America reveals how Maya activity more than 2,000 years ago not only contributed to the decline of their environment but continues to influence today's environmental conditions, ...

Climate ups odds of 'grey swan' superstorms

August 31, 2015

Climate change will boost the odds up to 14-fold for extremely rare, hard-to-predict tropical cyclones for parts of Australia, the United States and Dubai by 2100, researchers said Monday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.