A mineral deposit has been found in Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Western Pacific, with a size and concentration comparable to China’s
A “semi-infinite” supply of rare earths, vital elements for the global production of batteries, hard disc drives, portable electronics, microphones and many others, has been found in a deep-sea ore deposit about 1,850 kilometers southeast of Tokyo, beneath the waves of the vast northwestern Pacific Ocean, The Wall Street Journal reported this month.
Researchers from Tokyo-based Waseda University have surveyed the roughly 2,500-square-kilometer region of the sea floor there, at depths of 5,600 to 5,800 meters, off the coral atoll of Minami-Tori-shima, aka Marcus Island, and affirmed the area could hold more than 16 million tons of rare-earth oxides.
They would include 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 their paper that appeared in the journal Scientific Reports.
The data and estimates have also confirmed samples obtained by another team of University of Tokyo scholars and Japanese maritime researchers from the same part of the sea floor a few years ago.
Reports back then noted that the research team had found a mud layer 2-4 meters beneath the seabed with concentrations of up to 0.66% rare-earth oxides (REO). A potential deposit might compare in grade with the ion-absorption-type deposits in southern China that provide the bulk of the country’s rare-earth production, which grade in the range of 0.05% to 0.5% REO.
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