Japan finds huge rare earth mineral deposits

Written by Antony Leather

July 4, 2011 // 1:09 p.m.

Tags: #flatscreen #led #rare-earth-metal

Japan has discovered huge deposits of rare earth minerals on the ocean floor around Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean.

The finding is detailed in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience, and the deposits can apparently be easily extracted. According to the Guardian, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo says that just 1km2 of the deposits could supply a fifth of the world's annual demand for them.

Rare earth minerals are essential for making the components in smartphones, tablets and flat-screen TVs, as well as other commodities such as batteries, lasers and aerospace components.

However, according to the Guardian, China is currently responsible for 97 per cent of the global supply of rare earth deposits. What's more, in recent years the country has reportedly used its monopoly over the market, reducing supply during a territorial dispute with Japan in 2010.

China's monopoly has also led to the reopening of mines such as California's Mountain Pass in recent years as well. However, the Guardian reports that this find potentially increases known global reserves by 1,000 times, from 110 million tonnes to between 80 and 100 billion tonnes.

Worldwide demand for rare earth deposits reached 125,000 tonnes in 2010, and this is expected to grow to 225,000 tonnes by 2015.

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