In early 2018, researchers found a deposit of rare earth minerals on the coast of Japan that could supply the world for centuries, according to a study published in the journal Nature.
Given that certain minerals are fundamental for the supply of batteries, the boom of renewable energy or the expansion of the electric car, today we bring good news. The coast of Japan houses a deposit of rare earth minerals capable of supplying the world for centuries, according to a study. By definition, these minerals contain one or more of the 17 rare earth metal elements.
While these elements are usually dispersed – that is their problem, since they abound in the earth’s crust due to the process of weathering – this deposit is quite a rarity, since it contains up to 16 million tons of said materials. At present there are only a few economically viable areas where these raw materials can be extracted, the process being very expensive.
China has strictly controlled much of the world’s supply of these minerals for decades. That has forced Japan, a major manufacturer of electronic products, to rely on the prices dictated by its Asian neighbor. This finding could lead to enormous changes in the global economy, since the document emphasizes that the Japanese deposit could “supply these metals almost infinitely to the world”. Without going any further, it contains enough yttrium to meet world demand for 780 years, dysprosium for 730 years, europium for 620 years and terbium for 420 years.
The discovery is located on the island of Minamitori, about 1,850 km southeast of Tokyo. It is within the exclusive economic zone of Japan, so the island nation has exclusive rights to the resources there. Jack Lifton, founding director of a market research firm called Technology Metals Research, said the race for the development of these resources is under way and that it implies “a change in the game board for Japan.”
Japan began looking for its own rare earth mineral deposits after China stopped shipping shipments in the midst of a dispute over islands that both countries claim as their own, according to Reuters in 2014. Previously, China had reduced its export quotas for China. rare earth minerals in 2010, raising prices by up to 10 percent, reports The Journal. China was forced to return to export more minerals after the dispute was resolved in the World Trade Organization.
The only thing that prevents Japan from using its new deposit to dominate the world market for rare earth minerals is the challenge of extracting them. The process is expensive, so more research is needed to determine the cheapest methods, The Journal Yutaro Takaya, lead author of the study, told The Journal. If they succeed, they will be able to control a large part of the global supply, forcing leading countries in the export of technological products, such as China and the United States, to source from Japanese sources.