Team finds rare earths in Pacific


A Japanese research team said Thursday a deep-sea survey near a remote Japanese island in the Pacific confirmed a rich deposit of rare-earth minerals in mud taken from the seabed.

The Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and the University of Tokyo analyzed mud samples taken in January from seven locations on the ocean floor as deep as 5,800 meters and found rare-earth minerals concentrations far higher than those contained in soil in China, they said.

The deep-sea research vessel Kairei surveyed the areas near Minamitorishima Island, Japan’s easternmost, some 2,000 km southeast of Tokyo, where about 230 years’ worth of domestic consumption of the minerals are estimated to exist in the seabed.

The research team confirmed concentrations of the minerals of as high as over 0.65 percent of the mud, about 20 times higher than a typical level found in Chinese mines, they said.

Rare-earth minerals such as dysprosium are essential for producing high-tech products such as hybrid car motors and mobile phone parts.