Factbox: Global reserves of rare earths

TOKYO Mon Jul 4, 2011 2:58am EDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Vast deposits of rare earth minerals, crucial in making high-tech electronic products, have been found on the floor of the Pacific Ocean and can be readily extracted, Japanese scientists said on Monday.

Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo, gave no estimate of when extraction of the minerals from the seabed might start, but said the deposits may be 1,000 times those on land.

Here is a list of global reserves of rare earths confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey in comparison with estimated reserves found by the Japanese scientists in the Pacific seabed.

Rare earth reserves on land (in metric tons):

China 55 mln

CIS 19 mln

U.S. 13 mln

Australia 1.6 mln

India 3.1 mln

Others 22 mln

Total 110 mln

Source: U.S. Geological Survey

Rare earth reserves in seabed: (in metric tons)

Pacific seabed 80-100 bln

Source: Estimate by Yasuhiro Kato, associate professor at Tokyo University

(Reporting by Yuko Inoue; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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Comments (1)
quadibloc wrote:
As the article notes, there are large mineral reserves of rare earths in the United States and in Russia. The reason that a Chinese embargo on rare earth exports had a significant effect is that the elaborate facilities to separate out individual rare earth elements are present in China, while it was not economic to set up similar refinery operations in other countries. Mischmetal – rare earths not separated, but left mixed as found in nature – is used in lighter flints, and is common and cheap. So finding rare earths on the ocean floor doesn’t change much: and, since international treaties complicate recovery of minerals from there, even where it would be beneficial (i.e., magnesium) this reduces the significance of this further.

Jul 04, 2011 11:03am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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