• Kyodo

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Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. (JOGMEC) signed an agreement Monday with the International Seabed Authority on rare metal exploration in high seas about 600 km off Japan’s easternmost territory, Minamitorishima Island.

The contract regarding the apparently cobalt-rich crusts on the deep-sea floor will allow the semi-governmental agency to exclusively study areas as wide as about 3,000 sq. km, while giving advantage to Japan in securing the mining rights, according to JOGMEC officials.

“Japan aspires to become a country that has resources, from one that has none. . . . This signing ceremony was a symbolic event (toward that end),” Midori Matsushima, senior vice minister of economy, trade and industry, said after attending the event.

JOGMEC President Hirobumi Kawano said the move will help give Japan a stable supply of natural resources but acknowledged that developing mining technologies and reducing costs are some of the key issues that need to be tackled.

Rare metals are used in high-tech devices. Japan currently imports the bulk of such resources in a market dominated by China.

The contract is effective for 15 years.

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