Rare-earth metals not so rare after big Pacific find
Tuesday 05 July 2011
China's dominance of the production of rare-earth metals, which are used in everything from iPods and flat-screen TVs to missiles, could soon be at an end after Japanese researchers said they had found massive deposits of the minerals on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.
China accounts for 97 per cent of the world's production of 17 rare-earth elements, whose unique electrical, magnetic, optical and thermal properties make them vital ingredients for some of the most technologically advanced products.
According to the journal Nature Geoscience, a team of scientists led by Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo, found an estimated 100 billion tonnes of the minerals in mud at 78 locations on the Pacific seabed.
To give an idea of how much that is, global reserves are currently confirmed by the US Geological Survey at just 110 million tonnes. These are found mainly in China, Russia and other former Soviet countries, and the US. It is crucial now to work out if recovering the minerals from the sea floor will be commercially viable, as the reserves are in deep water – at between 13,000ft and 16,250ft.
"The deposits have a heavy concentration of rare earths," Professor Kato wrote. "Just one square kilometre of deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current global annual consumption."
Prices have been rising sharply of late as China builds up a national stockpile, consolidates the industry and cuts quotas, citing environmental concerns and domestic demand, and there are fears that global supplies may be in jeopardy.
China's commerce ministry said that between January and November last year, the country exported 35,000 tonnes of rare-earth minerals, up 14.5 per cent on 2009.
About a third of China's reserves have already been used up, leaving about 15 years' worth at the current rate of depletion.
- 2 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness
- 3 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 4 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 5 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
Lost portraits of the Somme: 100 images of Tommies posing before they went over the top. Now can you help to identify them?
Israel-Gaza conflict: 'When Genocide is Permissible' article removed from The Times of Israel website
Mystery of the Siberian holes at the end of the world 'solved': Scientists offer explanation
Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness
Sabina Altynbekova, the girl branded 'too good looking' for volleyball, says social media obsession with her is a 'bit much'
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£300 - £350 per day: Orgtel: Financial Analyst, Forecasting, Halifax, Banking,...
£500 per day: Orgtel: Business Architect - Banking - Bristol - £500 per day A...
£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...