‘Semi-infinite’ trove of rare earth elements found off coast of Japan

by WorldTribune Staff, April 13, 2018

Researchers in Japan have discovered what is being described as a “semi-infite” supply of rare earth elements in the country’s exclusive economic waters.

Rare earth elements are needed to manufacture a number of high-tech products, including mobile phones.

More than 16 million tons of rare earth elements were discovered in deep-sea mud off the coast of Japan, according to a study released on April 10 by the journal “Scientific Reports”.

Rare earth elements are needed to manufacture high-tech products from mobile phones to electric vehicles. China produces most of the rare earth elements currently available on the market.

The discover in the western Pacific Ocean near Minamitorishima Island “has the potential to supply these metals on a semi-infinite basis to the world,” the researchers said.

The study was conducted jointly by Yutaro Takaya, researcher with Waseda University, and Yasuhiro Kato of the University of Tokyo, among others.

The area reserves offer “great potential as ore deposits for some of the most critically important elements in modern society,” the researchers said.

The research team said hundreds of years of reserves of rare earths were discovered and that the team has developed an efficient method to separate valuable elements from others in the mud.

“The enormous resource amount and the effectiveness of the mineral processing are strong indicators that this new (rare-earth rich mud) resource could be exploited in the near future,” the researchers said.

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