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'Semi-infinite' trove of rare-Earth

metals that can be used to create

everything from phones to electric
cars is found in Japanese waters
 Rare-Earth metals are highly valuable to the tech
industry and are hard to find
 They are used in a variety of devices from phone
batteries to electric cars
 A vast amount of these elements has been discovered in
Japanese waters
 This treasure trove could supply the industry for
several hundred years

By Joe Pinkstone For Mail online and Afp

PUBLISHED: 09:53 EDT, 13 April 2018 | UPDATED: 09:53
EDT, 13 April 2018

Vast reserves of rare Earth elements have been found

hidden in deep-sea mud.

Enough of the precious materials have been found to

feed global demand on a 'semi-infinite basis' and
provide a much needed boost to the tech industry,
experts say.

The deposit, found in Japanese waters, contains more

than 16 million tons of the elements needed to build
high tech products from smartphones to electric

Able to supply the world for hundreds of years, the

discovery is extremely valuable for the Japanese
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Vast reserves of rare earth elements have been found
hidden in deep-sea mud. Enough has been found to feed
global demand on a 'semi-infinite basis,' and provide a
much needed boost to the tech industry. Hydrothermal
vents are fast becoming a hotspot for valuable metals

A team of researchers from several universities,

businesses and government institutions, made the
discovery while surveying the western Pacific Ocean,
near Minamitorishima Island.
The uncovered 1.2 million tons of 'rare Earth oxide'
stashed underground, in a sample area of the mineral-
rich region.

The study was conducted jointly by Yutaro Takaya from

the Waseda University and Yasuhiro Kato of the
University of Tokyo, among others.

They estimate that a 2,500-square kilometer (965 square

mile) region off the Japanese island should contain a
vast stash of the valuable elements.

In the study, the authors say it 'has the potential to

supply these metals on a semi-infinite basis to the

The area offers 'great potential as ore deposits for

some of the most critically important elements in
modern society,' the researchers added.

Some of the elements found are yttrium, europium,

terbium and dysprosium.

Experts predict this area has enough natural stock to

provide the world for a further 780, 620, 420, and 730
years, respectively.

These elements are used in televisions, cameras,

nuclear power stations and quantum memory chips, among
other things.

In the sample area of the mineral-rich region, the
team's survey estimated there are 1.2 million tons of
'rare earth oxide' stashed underground. The study
estimates that a 2,500-square kilometer area off the
Japanese island should contain 16 million tons of the
valuable elements

The team has also developed an efficient method to

separate valuable elements from others in the mud.

Supply chains around the world currently rely heavily

on China for rare earths, with Beijing producing most
of the elements currently available on the market.

With strict restrictions on Chinese exports, the price

for these products has increased drastically.

Manufacturers that require these materials, mainly in

Japan, have faced severe shortages following diplomatic
The Japanese study stressed the importance of the
efforts to develop efficient and economic methods to
collect deep-sea mud.


An area off the western Pacific Ocean near
Minamitorishima Island, Japan has been found to have a
vast amount of rare earth metals that are valuable for
the tech industry. The area is in Japanese waters and
could help lower the cost of technology if it can be

Deep sea mining has gathered more interest in recent

years as companies and nations discover the wealth of
valuable resources on the ocean floor.

As well as rare Earth metals such as Yttrium,

hydrothermal vents are also a potential home to
commercially valuable metals such as gold and copper.

As their economic value grows, environmental groups are

trying to preemptively protect scientifically and
ecologically important regions from this type of
excavation, however.

'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 study said.

The study was released Tuesday in the

journal Scientific Reports.


Rare Earth metals, including Yttrium, have a variety of

uses in the technological sector.

Most of their applications focus around building and

developing high-end tech.

Yttrium - This metallic element is named after a

Swedish town (Ytterby) where it was first discovered in
the 18th Century.

Yttrium oxide accounts for the element's largest use.

The oxide, as well as yttrium vanadate is used with
europium to make phosphors to create the red color in
television tubes.

It is used in lasers that can cut through metals and

and in white LED lights.

Yttrium oxide is added to the glass used to make camera

lenses to make them heat and shock resistant. It is
also used to make superconductors.

Europium - Named after the continent on which it was

discovered _Europe - this element has specialized uses.

As well as also being used in the production of the red

color in televisions, it can be used to create quantum
memory chips to store information.

Europium is also used in the printing of euro

banknotes. It glows red under UV light, and forgeries
can be detected by the lack of this red glow.

Low-energy light bulbs contain a little europium to

give a more natural light, by balancing the blue (cold)
light with a little red (warm) light.

Terbium - This element was also discovered in the

Swedish quarry in Ytterby.

An alloy of terbium, dysprosium and iron lengthens and

shortens in a magnetic field.

This unusual property forms the basis of loudspeakers

that sit on a flat surface, such as a window pane,
which then acts as the speaker.

Dysprosium - Dysprosium is also used in nuclear

reactor control rods.
It readily absorbs neutrons and does not swell or
contract when bombarded with neutrons for long

At high temperatures, dysprosium resists


Demagnetization is the process of removing magnetic

characteristics from an object.

This makes its alloys ideal for use in permanent

magnets for motors, electric vehicles, generators, and
wind turbines.
Read more:
 The tremendous potential of deep-sea mud as a source of
rare-earth elements | Scientific Reports

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