June 25, 2017

Japan finds massive rare earth deposits on ocean floor

Finding them might be the easy part. Getting them from the Pacific Ocean floor might be another matter.

Japanese researchers claim to have discovered massive deposits of rare earth minerals, on the Pacific Ocean floor.

Rare earth minerals are used in the manufacture of many hi-tech appliances. Currently China produces 97 percent of the world’s rare earth metals.

The team of geologists led by Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo, found the minerals in sea mud at 78 locations.

They estimate that there between 80 to 100 billion tons of the rare elements in the mud of the Pacific Ocean floor.

The discovery of the vast rare earth metal deposits might challenge China’s dominance, but only if a commercially viable method of retrieval can be developed.

The minerals were found at depths of 3,500 to 6,000 metres below the ocean surface in international waters east and west of Hawaii, and east of Tahiti in French Polynesia.

The US Geological Survey has estimated that global reserves are just 110 million tonnes, found mainly in China, Russia and other former Soviet countries, and the United States.

The Japanese will rather anxious to exploit this latest discovery after China halted supplies of rare earth metals to Japan during their territorial dispute last year.