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Japan:Rare earth minerals found in the Pacific Ocean

Monday, July 4, 2011

Laaska News  July 4,2011
A group of experts at the University of Tokyo says there is a possibility that they have found out a large amount of rare earth minerals, a vital component in high-tech products, in the mud of the Pacific Ocean.

The estimated reserves under the sea are 800 times in quantity those on land. The area is expected to become a new supply source that could end China’s control over most of the production of rare earth minerals.

The elements are said to be found 3,500 meters to 6,000 meters deep in the North Pacific, and the South Pacific Ocean off Hawaii.

Associate Professor Yasuhiro Kato of the University of Tokyo paid attention to hot water, which is released due to volcanic actions and attracts rare earth. He analyzed mud samples from the Pacific Ocean bed.

He found a high density of Dysprosium, used in motors for electric and hybrid vehicles, and Terbium for television manufacturing, in some of 2000 samples taken in 78 places.

The mud covers 11 million square kilometers–30 times the size of Japan.

China controls 90 percent of the world’s rare earth production and has been limiting its exports. A rare earth price hike is a big concern and a worldwide discussion is under way on how to secure supplies of these metals.

The group says, there are still technical problems to solve to get the mud from the sea, but separating the minerals from the mud would be quite easy and profitable.

Professor Kato said that since most of the mud is thought to be under the high seas, China will not be able to monopolize it. He also said there is a high possibility of finding rare earth within Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

NHK.

Laaska News.

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