Japanese researchers find rare earth minerals in Pacific seabed
A team of Japanese researchers has discovered vast deposits of rare earth elements used for many high-tech products in the Pacific Ocean floor, a published report said Monday.
The team led by Yasuhiro Kato, an earth science professor at the University of Tokyo, reported in the online edition of Nature Geoscience that it had found the minerals in sea mud at 78 sites, at a depths of 3,500 to 6,000 meters, DPA reported.
High concentrations of rare earths were located in an 8.8-million square-kilometre area near Hawaii and in another area of about 2.4 million square kilometres around Tahiti, the team said.
"We estimate that an area of just 1 square kilometre, surrounding one of the sampling sites, could provide one-fifth of the current annual world consumption of these elements," it said.
The rare-earth elements "are readily recovered from the mud by simple acid leaching."
China currently provides more than 90 per cent of the world's rare earth elements and Japan depends largely on it for supplies used to produce hybrid cars, mobile phones and other high-tech products.
China temporarily blocked rare-earth shipments to Japan during territorial disputes between the two countries last year.