April 13, 2018
Centuries’ worth of these vital metals have been discovered by researchers, located in a 965sq mile stretch of Pacific Ocean seabed in Japanese waters, near the island of Minamitorishima.
As CNBC reports, according to the study published by the researchers in Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports, enough of these rare-earth metals have been found to keep us supplied on a “semi-infinite basis”.
Rare-earth metals have a variety of vital applications in our 21st century society, playing a “crucial” part in the making of a range of high-tech products, including batteries, mobile phones and vehicles.
The study revealed that the seabed “contains more than 16 million tons of rare-earth oxides”. This is equivalent to “780 years’ worth of yttrium, 620 years of europium, 420 years of terbium and 730 years of dysprosium”.
Until now, China has been the main provider of rare-earth metals, but this discovery could see Japan muscling in on the country’s pole position, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.
Japan began looking for alternative sources for rare-earth metals after a dispute over islands claimed by both China and Japan prompted China to withhold shipments in 2010, resulting in a substantial price hike.
However, the cost of extracting this sizeable cache of metals could prove significant, and Japanese “government-backed entities, companies and researchers” now have plans to embark on a feasibility study sometime within the next five years.
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