New technology to target sea minerals

JIJI

The science and technology ministry plans to develop technologies to search marine minerals by the end of fiscal 2015, in a bid to promote the commercial mining of such resources.

The ministry made public a road map for the project at a meeting Monday of the Council for Science and Technology’s committee on marine minerals.

The new technologies will be used for research on the distribution and quantity of marine minerals in such areas as Okinawa, the Izu Peninsula of Shizuoka Prefecture and the Ogasawara island chain, including Minamitorishima, a Pacific islet at the eastern end of Japanese territory.

The ministry hopes by fiscal 2018, to start providing Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. and private firms with information about potential deposits of marine minerals that are suitable for commercial mining.

Researchers have found seafloor hydrothermal deposits in the areas containing gold, silver and copper, as well as rocks rich in cobalt and mud holding abundant rare earth minerals.

According to experts, more research is needed on whether the deposits are viable for commercial development. Universities and research institutions have been working to develop high-quality sensors to study geographical features, underground structures and components of seawater to find deposits.

The ministry plans to publicly solicit applications to pick a group that will integrate sensor development projects currently undertaken by various research institutes. It will invest more than ¥500 million a year with the aim of making the sensors available to private firms within three years, officials said.