Japan finds rich rare earth deposits on seabed

Mar 21, 2013
Rare earths undergoing processing in large steel pipes are cooled off with dripping water at a privately-owned factory on the outskirts of Baotou city in Inner Mongolia, northwest China on April 21, 2011.

Japanese researchers said Thursday they have found a rich deposit of rare earths on the Pacific seabed, with reports suggesting it could be up to 30 times more concentrated than Chinese reserves.

Mud samples taken from 5,800 metres (19,000 feet) below the waves contained highly concentrated amounts of the , which are vital for high-tech manufacturing and used in products including and iPods.

The proving of resources is significant for Japan, which currently relies largely on China, the source of around 90 percent of the world's supply of rare earths.

Manufacturers have complained in the past that Beijing restricts exports of the materials at times of tension.

"Rare earths are necessary for cutting-edge technologies. Japan faces an urgent task to secure stable supplies," said a statement by researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and the University of Tokyo.

The samples, taken from the seabed near Minamitori island some 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) southeast of Tokyo, were 10 times more concentrated than that of mud collected from the seabed near Hawaii, the researchers said.

The concentration was 20 to 30 times higher than that from Chinese mines, Japanese media said.

Scientists believe the contains about 6.8 million tonnes of the materials, the equivalent of 220 to 230 years worth of used in Japan.

But despite the desire to move away from dependence on China, the cost of extracting supplies from such a depth and in such hostile conditions may prove problematic, commentators said.

In its afternoon edition, the mass-selling Yomiuri Shimbun said there had been no successful commercial mining below 5,000 metres.

The researchers said they plan to continue their survey, which began in January, to further study rare earth resources and find out how extensive the deposits are.

Explore further: Scientists make strides in tsunami warning since 2004

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Japan to survey Pacific seabed for rare earths

Jan 10, 2013

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.

Japan deep-sea robots to seek minerals: report

Jan 07, 2011

Resource-poor Japan plans to use deep-sea mining robots to exploit rare earths and precious metals on the ocean floors around the island nation within a decade, according to a media report.

Hitachi unveils motor without 'rare earths'

Apr 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.

Japan, US, and EU to meet on rare earths

Mar 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.

China cuts rare earths mining permits

Sep 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

Scientists make strides in tsunami warning since 2004

9 hours ago

The 2004 tsunami led to greater global cooperation and improved techniques for detecting waves that could reach faraway shores, even though scientists still cannot predict when an earthquake will strike.

Trade winds ventilate the tropical oceans

9 hours ago

Long-term observations indicate that the oxygen minimum zones in the tropical oceans have expanded in recent decades. The reason is still unknown. Now scientists at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

yonko
2.2 / 5 (6) Mar 21, 2013
now they will rape our seabeds, like they do our whales & dolphins, & the sharks, whose fins they keep & dispose of the rest of the shark!They still have 3 grotesque nuclear meltdowns burning toxic radioactive fallout into our atmosphere & dumping tons of atomic wastewater into our oceans! NO CONSCIENCE NO MORALS & NO REGARD for the rest of humanity & their own citizens!
katesisco
1 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2013
The only action on the sea bed 4 miles below the surface is by biota inhabitants or extremely temporary visitors from above.

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.