Japan finds enough rare-earth metals to last 700 years

Researchers have found enough reserves of rare-earth metals (REMs) to satisfy global demand for up to 700 years. Scientists surveyed the deep-sea mud on the Pacific Ocean floor about 2,000 kilometers southeast of Tokyo. They say their find, "has the potential to supply these metals on a semi-infinite basis to the world". Researchers from two universities in Tokyo estimate the area contains more than 16 million tons of rare-earth metals. They added there is "great potential…for some of the most critically important elements in modern society".

There are 17 rare-earth metals in the periodic table. These chemical elements have relatively unknown names, like europium and terbium. Their uses, applications, and demand have greatly increased with our need for high-tech products. REMs are widely used in electric motors for hybrid vehicles, wind turbines, hard disc drives, portable electronics, microphones, speakers and many other products. Around 90 per cent of REMs used to manufacture advanced electronics currently come from China. The new discovery near Japan could bring down prices.