Massive lode of rare-earth metals found in Japanese waters

Originally published at:


And here’s a picture of Minamitorishima island, the furthest-east territory held by Japan, and the one that permits it to claim these waters (&minerals) as falling in their exclusive economic zone:

Marcus Island DF-ST-87-08298.JPEG
By CMSGT Don Sutherland -, Public Domain, Link

p.s. According to Wikipedia, this island is adminstratively part of Tokyo!


rare-earth elements such as yttrium, europium, terbium, dysprosium.



Semi-infinite = infinite.


China: “Nice island you have there. It’d be a shame if something happened to it.”


“Rare Earths” aren’t actually very rare, and supply will likely be able to respond to demand for a fair while.

Seabed mining is a currently unexploited (with small-scale exceptions) way to continue to damage the planet. It might be better than on-land mining, though. There are two companies looking this seriously, Deep Green and Nautilus. It’s a technical, environmental, legal, emotional and sociological challenge, whichever way you look at it. But we do love our cellphones, so something has to give.


The first deposit discovered had rare earth concentrations double other sources for desirable rare earths and had less thorium. That makes processing it less polluting than other sources.

Circa 2013:


No duh. Where else do you think they have been burying all those giant robots destroyed over the years?


The seabottom location makes it impractical to use vast armies of slave labor to haul the stuff out by the bucket load, so that’s a plus, I guess.

If recovery from used gadgets were a priority, I wonder if the electronics industry could design for easier recycling?


Come on 'murica let’s make a deal with Japan and get the fuck out of Afghanistan already.

(not gonna happen but, worth a shout out.)

Edit: A minerals for TPP deal in the making? “Trump is flirting with re-entering TPP talks…Japan sees the TPP as its key weapon in countering Chinese influence and, like other allies, was frustrated to see the U.S. leave the agreement.” -Axios


Assuming the tech exists to exploit these deposits, I wonder what the Chinese response to this “threat to their national interests?” Considering the powder keg the world has become in the age of Trump, it has real potential to get interesting.

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It’s kinda unavoidable to mix them with other materials, either as a multilayer stack, or as fine features, or as dopants. So recovery would necessarily involve a lot of processing. I do wish we had and implemented such processes, though.

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As things stood before this discovery China had about a third of proven reserves of rare earths. According to Mining Technology, it hasn’t been geographic exclusivity that gives China a “monopoly”:

“It comes from the rock-bottom rare earth prices that hit the market because of China’s ability to produce and export these commodities cheaply, due to its highly developed industry and lower labour costs (not to mention lax environmental regulation and a booming cottage industry of illegal rare earth miners and exporters). As a result, rare earth mining operations elsewhere in the world have been priced out of the market, as seen in the case of MolyCorp’s Mountain Pass mine in California, the US’s only rare earth operation, which shut down due to low prices in 2002.”


Interesting take on the rare earth market. Lovins’ basic point, I think, is that because of a stock bubble that broke in 2010 and the perceived lack of supply, industries that relied on rare earth metals became more efficient and now use a fraction of what they used to.

Tesla’s market-leading lithium batteries, like its motors, use no rare earths at all.


I thought that Unobtainium’s atomic number was 404?


Whoops - our mistake - it was something else.



Of course, it could be something else:


“We have found deposits that are just two to four metres from the seabed surface at higher concentrations than anybody ever thought existed, and it won’t cost much at all to extract”

Well that explains the questions I had about this - I was wondering how China’s stranglehold, which is based entirely on how cheaply they can mine the stuff, could be broken by elements that had to be mined underwater.


China builds new artificial island in 3…2…1…


I think you are mixing up two different issues. Batteries does not contain magnets.
Tesla batteries contains little amount of Cobalt (compared to most widespread Li-ion batteries). Cobalt is not a rare-earth, but is a by-product of copper mining. Prices for Cobalt has soared lately (+300% in last couple of years, and still growing fast) due to current and projected demand for batteries in EV.
Electric motors used in Tesla Model X and S are induction motors, so they don’t use magnets at all. The electric motor of model 3 uses permanent magnets, and I strongly doubt that they are not rare earth magnets, since performance wise the different is huge.