Japan has made a breakthrough discovery in the Pacific seabed near a far eastern island, a scientist announced. Almost 7 million tonnes of rare earth minerals have been found, which could provide Japan with enough materials to make electric cars, iPods or lasers for the next 200 years.
The discovery was made amid a growing global scandal between international powers like the EU, U.S. and Japan, on the one hand, and China on the other hand, over the latter’s restrictions on exports of rare metals.
China controls 97 percent of the world’s production but it is limiting exports, putting industries like defence, electronics and renewable energy under pressure.
Mud samples taken from an area near Minamitorishima island, about 2,000 kilometres southeast of Tokyo, showed that deposits amounting to around 220 times the average annual amount used by industry in Japan were found, Tokyo University professor Yasuhiro Kato said.
“Specifically on dysprosium (a rare earth mineral used in the engines of hybrid cars), I estimate at least 400 years worth of Japan’s current consumption is in the deposits,” the professor said.