Japan to study seabed for rare earths

AFP-JIJI

Japan will search its Pacific seabed for rare-earth deposits large enough to supply its high-tech industries, hoping to reduce its dependence on China.

An official said researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology will launch the survey Jan. 21 near Minamitorishima Island — a tiny, far-flung atoll more than 2,000 km east of Naha, Okinawa, that represents the easternmost edge of Japan’s territory.

The seabed study will follow an earlier finding by University of Tokyo professor Yasuhiro Kato, who took mud samples from the seabed. He said these indicated deposits amounted to around 6.8 million tons of the valuable minerals, or 220 times the average annual amount used by Japanese industry.