Japanese scientists working on the Pacific seabed discovered rare earth used in the manufacture of high tech gadgets. These minerals are located off the coast of Hawaii and Tahiti. Approximately 100 billion tonnes of the rare elements were discovered 3,500 to 6,000 metres below sea level.
The minerals discovered were gadolinium, lutetium, terbium and dysprosium, which are normally used to manufacture high tech gadgets like Light Emitting Device (LED) valves, flat screen televisions and hybrid cars. One square kilometer of deposits alone will be able to sustain one fifth of the current annual global consumption.
China has reason to worry as they currently supply 97% of the world’s rare earth. With last year’s restrain on supply and the resultant high prices, Japan’s discovery may be the beginning of the end for China’s monopoly in this market. The current drawback for Japan is finding commercially viable means of mining the rare earth, and hopefully getting a chunk of the rare minerals market.
With marine life already threatened by oil spills and industrial waste, environmentalists are worried about the effects of deep sea mining. BBC News reports that “the number of firms seeking licences to dig through the Pacific Ocean floor is growing rapidly”. It is obviously business as usual, with no concerns about the very real threats of mercury poisoning from saltwater creatures, or the destruction of marine life.