Japan Finds 200 Years’ Worth Of Rare Earth [via The Awl]

via The Truth About Cars by Bertel Schmitt on 6/29/12


For two years, the world was worried about a possible rare earth shock, triggered by the crafty Chinese. As they are withholding the dirt that is essential for magnets, motors, and generators, an electrified world will go on its knees – or so the theory went.

The opposite happened. Right when everybody was ready to blame the high prices of EVs and hybrids on the Chinese,  prices of rare earths crashed. Small miners went belly-up. And now, shockers of shockers, The Nikkei [sub] says that Japan found 200 years’ worth of rare earth near an island. Even bigger shocker: The island is not on the China side of Japan, it’s in the Pacific.

300km (186 miles) off the coast of Minamitori Island, high concentrations of rare earths were found, including dysprosium, used to enhance the performance of motor magnets. Two small problems: The rare earth is at a depth of 5,600m (18,400 ft). The island itself is more than 1,000 miles away from Tokyo in the Pacific Ocean. However, the island and all the islands of the chain are Japanese, as a matter of fact, the islands count as a part of Tokyo. Minamitori itself is the size of a small airport, actually, that’s all it is.

Last year, rare-earth deposits were discovered in international waters. This is the first time a possible deposit has been found in Japanese waters, and it is in waters the Chinese don’t claim as their own. After WWII, the island was under U.S. control until 1968, when it reverted back to Japan.

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