Japan found hundreds of years’ worth of the minerals used in batteries and electric vehicles
TOKYO—Japan has hundreds of years’ worth of rare-earth metal deposits in its waters, according to new research that reflects Tokyo’s concern about China’s hegemony over minerals used in batteries and electric vehicles.
The deposits were found in the Pacific Ocean seabed near remote Minamitori Island, about 1,150 miles southeast of Tokyo. Extracting them would likely be costly, but resource-poor Japan is pushing ahead with research in hopes of getting more control over next-generation technologies and weapon systems.
A roughly 965-square-mile seabed near the island contains more than 16 million tons of rare-earth oxides, estimated to hold 780 years’ worth of the global supply of yttrium, 620 years’ worth of europium, 420 years’ worth of terbium and 730 years’ worth of dysprosium, according to a study published this week in Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports.
The U.S. Department of Energy and the European Union have issued warnings about shortages of rare earths as China’s own consumption of them increases.
“This is a game changer for Japan,” said Jack Lifton, a founding principal of Technology Metals Research LLC who wasn’t involved in the research. “The race to develop these resources is well under way.”
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