Vast deposits of rare earth minerals, crucial in making high-tech electronics products, have been found on the floor of the Pacific Ocean and can be readily extracted, Japanese scientists said yesterday.
“The deposits have a heavy concentration of rare earths. Just 1km2 of deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current global annual consumption,” said Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo.
The discovery was made by a team led by Kato and included several researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth -Science and Technology.
They found the minerals in sea mud extracted from depths of 3,500m to 6,000m below the ocean surface at 78 locations. One-third of the sites yielded rich contents of rare earths and the metal yttrium, Kato said in a telephone interview.
The deposits are in international waters in an area stretching east and west of Hawaii, as well as east of Tahiti in French Polynesia, he said.
He estimated rare earths contained in the deposits amounted to 80 billion tonnes to 100 billion tonnes, compared with global reserves currently confirmed by the US Geological Survey of just 110 million tonnes that have been found mainly in the US, China, Russia and other former Soviet countries.
Details of the discovery were published yesterday in the online version of British journal Nature Geoscience.
The level of uranium and thorium — radioactive ingredients that are usually contained in such deposits that can pose environmental hazards — was found to be one-fifth of those in deposits on land, Kato said.
A shortage of rare earths, vital for making a range of high-tech electronics, magnets and batteries, has encouraged mining projects for them in recent years.
China, which accounts for 97 percent of global rare earth supplies, has been tightening trade in the strategic metals, sparking an explosion in prices.
Japan, which accounts for a third of global demand, has been stung badly, and has been looking to diversify its supply sources, particularly of heavy rare earths such as dysprosium, which is used in magnets.
Kato said the sea mud was especially rich in heavier rare earths such as gadolinium, lutetium, terbium and dysprosium.
“These are used to manufacture flat-screen TVs, LED valves and hybrid cars,” he said.
Extracting the deposits requires pumping up material from the ocean floor.
“Sea mud can be brought up to ships and we can extract rare earths right there using simple acid leaching,” he said. “Using diluted acid, the process is fast, and within a few hours we can extract 80 to 90 percent of rare earths from the mud.”
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
CHINESE FIGHTERS: Beijing marked the US Cabinet member’s visit by briefly sending two warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait yesterday morning President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday met with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar in the highest-level official meeting between the two nations since 1979. “It is a true honor to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from [US] President [Donald] Trump to Taiwan,” Azar said during the open portion of his courtesy call to the Presidential Office, which was streamed live online before Tsai and Azar held a closed-door meeting. “Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent,
PARTNERSHIP AND LEARNING: A Princeton University health policy researcher said that the nation would be a ‘treasure trove’ of information for the US health chief US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Friday said he wants to learn about Taiwan’s “incredibly effective” response to COVID-19, even though the nation did things that the US has fumbled, such as having a unified strategy and citizens willing to wear masks. Azar leads a US delegation arriving today for a three-day visit to Taiwan. They are to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and health system leaders, and Azar is to give a speech to public health graduates. “The message of this trip is about Taiwan,” Azar said in an interview, deflecting a question about China.
Taiwanese-independence advocates yesterday accused former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of breaking national security laws and called on the judiciary to investigate after his statement that “China will wage a battle, which will be quick and will be the last battle for Taiwan.” Ma showed his true colors “as a mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party” in his speech on Monday when he said the “first battle will be the last,” Taiwan Republic Office (台灣國辦公室) director Chilly Chen (陳峻涵) said. “Ma is threatening Taiwanese by claiming that Beijing will launch a quick invasion of Taiwan, but that the US military will have no