Japanese geologists recently discovered huge treasure troves of ‘rare metals’ such as tantalum, yttrium and scandium in the floor of the Pacific. In this case, the ‘rare metals’, due to their definition of being scarce in wide distribution amounts that outbalance the tremendous abundance in the earth, are rare earth minerals.
Professor Yasuhiro Kato of the University of Tokyo who headed the team of geologists stated that there is at least 80 billion metric tons of rare earth minerals in each sample site the team has located.
According to Kato, “just one square kilometre can contain approximately 1/5th of the current annual world consumption of these elements.”
78 locations have been confirmed by the team to contain such deposits of minerals near Hawaii and Tahiti.
These elements are often used for various technological assets such as wind turbines, batteries, electrical wiring, LED lights, flat-screen televisions and the ever-popular smart phones.
Reaching these deposits however, may prove to be very difficult for any company or country.
Scientifically speaking, the deposits are several miles under the ocean surface which happens to be international waters. The means to get to it will have to be thoroughly developed and tested to make sure no significant environmental or any other type of damage is done.
Many are concerned that the discovery may fuel competitive undersea mining/drilling that could harm the aquatic environment and in turn, our own.
Politically and economically speaking, this could cause some sort of protest from China and most certainly other countries/companies fighting for mining privileges.
The nation of China possesses roughly 33% of the world’s rare earth minerals and produces over 90% of the rare metals the world uses today. China’s titanic grip on the resources has allowed it to handle them however they want… such as restricting the flow of exports of these metals from the country, which of course annoyed quite a few countries.
Now that these rare earth deposits have been discovered (by Japanese geologists no less, their country having invested hundreds of millions in looking for other sources other than their Chinese neighbor) China may face actual competition.
The ocean floor has lately been a subject of research teams of different nationalities that are looking for alternative energy sources to resources such as oil.