Japanese Scientists Announce Discovery of Rare Mineral Deposits

Posted July 4th, 2011 at 10:25 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Japanese scientists say vast deposits of rare earth minerals, crucial in making electronic goods, have been found on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

A team of researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology announced the discovery Monday. The group said that deep sea mud in central and southeastern areas of the Pacific Ocean is a source of the elements, equivalent to those found in mines on land.

An associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo who led the team, Yasuhiro Kato, said that one square-kilometer of the deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current annual consumption of rare earth minerals. He said the deposits are in international waters in an area stretching east and west of Hawaii, as well as east of Tahiti in French Polynesia.

China accounts for more than 95 percent of the world’s rare earth supplies. It has been tightening trade in the strategic metals, causing steep price increases and prompting concern.

The rare minerals are essential to the production of computer parts, mobile phones and hybrid car parts. Beijing halted rare earth shipments to Japan last year during a maritime dispute. Japan and other countries have been looking to diversify supply sources to reduce their dependence on China.