Japan finds enough rare-earth metals to last 700 years

Researchers have found reserves of rare-earth metals (REMs) to meet global demand for up to 700 years. Scientists surveyed the Pacific Ocean floor 2,000 kilometers southeast of Tokyo. They say the REMs have "the potential to supply these metals on a semi-infinite basis to the world". Researchers believe the area has over 16 million tons of REMs. There is, "great potential…for some of the most critically important elements in modern society".

There are a total of 17 rare-earth metals. These elements have fairly unknown names, like europium and terbium. Their use has greatly increased with our need for high-tech products. REMs are widely used in hybrid vehicles, wind turbines, disc drives, portable electronics and many other products. Around 90 per cent of REMs used in advanced electronics currently come from China. The new discovery near Japan could bring down prices.