Japanese researchers have discovered massive amounts of rare-earth materials in the Pacific ocean, putting an end to China’s dominance in the rare-earth minerals market (ed: and making rare-earth minerals... more common)
China currently dominates the rare-earth minerals market with a 97 per cent share, the BBC reports (opens in new tab). However, its supply of these minerals is running out quickly as the appetite for electronic goods which use a significant amount of these raw materials is booming.
A research team led by Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo, discovered 100 billion tonnes of rare-earth minerals on the Pacific bed. The minerals have been located at 78 sites near Japan, Hawaii and Tahiti.
The current global reserves of rare-earth minerals amounts to 110 million tonnes spread across China, Russia and the US.
Rare earth minerals are used to manufacture some of the most technologically advanced products like hybrid cars, iPods, missiles and flat screen TVs.
“Just 0.4 square miles of deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current global annual consumption,” said Kato.
“Sea mud can be brought up to ships and we can extract rare earths right there using simple acid leaching. Using diluted acid, the process is fast, and within a few hours we can extract 80pc to 90pc of rare earths from the mud,” he added.