Japan finds large rare earth deposits on seabed

March 25, 2013

Japanese researchers have found a rich deposit of rare earths on the Pacific seabed some 2,000 km (1,250 miles) southeast of Tokyo, reports AFP.

Mud samples taken from 5,800 metres (19,000 feet) below the waves contained highly concentrated amounts of rare earths. Scientists believe the seabed contains around 6.8 million tonnes of the materials, the equivalent of over 200 years worth of rare earths used in Japan.

“Rare earths are necessary for cutting-edge technologies. Japan faces an urgent task to secure stable supplies,” stated researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and the University of Tokyo. Other projects under evaluation by Japanese scientists include the extraction of rare earths from Jamaica’s bauxite waste, as reported on ipmd.net in February.

Despite Japan’s desire to move away from dependence on China for the supply of rare earths, the cost of extracting supplies from such a depth and in such hostile conditions may prove problematic. There has been no successful commercial mining below 5,000 metres, stated the report.

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.

www.jamstec.go.jp 

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